In keeping with the horror theme of the day, here’s an Ewok Sith:
Halloween week continues here at spalanz.com! For the big day, I thought I’d share some thoughts on some of the Cthulhu-themed games that are available on the market today! As Smash Up quite rightly pokes fun, the Cthulhu theme has become almost obligatory for games nowadays, with Lovecraftian re-skins abounding. Here are some of my favourites:
First up, we have a favourite of mine, a subtheme of the popular game from Atlas Games.
Cthulhu Gloom is very similar to regular Gloom, in that you control a family that you’re trying to make as miserable as possible, before killing them all off. The storytelling aspect is still there, of course (just why will Asenaith Waite never stop screaming?), and any fan of Lovecraft’s work will no doubt get a kick out of some of these cards, seeing how the designers have worked in a whole load of different references to the mythos.
There are also a couple of new twists on regular Gloom, such as the Story cards (which can give benefits when you win them) and transformation cards (which can, well, transform your family member into something else, permanently replacing the character picture).
One expansion has been released, Unpleasant Dreams, which is basically like the Unwelcome Guests expansion for the regular game. You get a new family, a set of unwelcome guests, and a whole bunch of additional content to expand the base game.
There’s not a lot else to say: it’s like Gloom, but with a Cthulhu theme. For a Lovecraft fan, it can be utterly delightful, but even if you’re only vaguely familiar with the mythos, it’s still a whole load of fun, and I can recommend it to you all!
I turn now to a game that I’ve wanted to feature on my blog for a long while, but haven’t really played it enough to have any real comments to make: Munchkin. Even so, I couldn’t write a blog on Cthulhu-themed games without mentioning Munchkin Cthulhu!
Munchkin is a card game that lampoons the Dungeons-and-Dragons genre of dungeon-delving RPGs, where players control a character who is trying to move through ten levels by killing monsters and taking their treasure. It’s an excellent group-game, with the wonderful help-or-hinder mechanic that can make it really fun to gang up on your friends, or offer to help them for a share of the loot. At some point in the near future, I hope to feature the base game on my blog (I also have the Pathfinder Munchkin game, too, for added hilarity!), but suffice it to say Cthulhu Munchkin appears to be much of the same sort of delightfully tongue-in-cheek humour as you work your way up the levels!
Another game that I’ve not talked about here is Fluxx. The basic premise of this game is that, well, the game is in a constant state of flux, right down to the core rules.
The game begins with the “basic rules” card on the table, which allows players to draw a card from the central deck, then play one card. And that’s it – there’s no way to win the game until a Goal card is played. The rules can change round on round, as players play New Rule cards. It’s actually a tremendous game, and definitely worth picking up!
Cthulhu Fluxx takes the basic Fluxx design and gives it the Lovecraft treatment. We have cards called Keepers, which act like characters I suppose, and can trigger the win if you have them played in front of you when a Goal is played that states a player needs those specific Keepers. There are also Creepers, who normally prevent you from winning if you have them, but there are also cards that turn that on its head. In short, it’s a fantastic game!
I’m going to end this brief tour through Cthulhu games with one of the simplest, most fun games I have in my collection, Cthulhu Dice. From the same designer as Munchkin, the game is played with a giant d12 that has various symbols on it, such as tentacles, Elder Signs, the Yellow Sign, and Cthulhu himself, and a set of glass beads. These beads represent your cultists, and the dice result each turn will determine whether you gain or lose cultists – the last person with any remaining cultists wins. It’s that simple, and yet it’s a whole lot of fun, the perfect way to end a game day (even more perfect if that game day involved one of the heavyweights such as Arkham Horror!)
So there you have it, a whirlwind tour through some of my favourite Cthulhu games. Of course, I haven’t mentioned any of the big ones such as Arkham Horror, Eldritch Horror or Call of Cthulhu LCG as they’ve already made it to my blog in the full treatment, but they’re also really worth getting hold of if you haven’t already! To say nothing of Smash Up‘s Obligatory Cthulhu Expansion!
Have a great Halloween, everyone!
Iä! Iä! Cthulhu Fhtagn!
Given that it’s Halloween week, I want to do another game blog, and what could be better than to take a look at one of the greats! At least, one of my all-time favourites: Elder Sign!
Another addition to the Cthulhu line-up of games from Fantasy Flight, Elder Sign is a dice game set in the shared universe, where you play an investigator on the trail of the weird goings on in the museum in Arkham.
The investigators are looking to stop the emergence of the Ancient One by searching the museum for enough Elder Signs to seal him up forever. The investigators perform their search through the museum’s halls, which are represented by the adventure cards…
These cards have a series of tasks on them that the investigators accomplish by throwing dice, which need to match to the symbols to complete. You can only complete one row of tasks at a time, though you can complete them in any order (unless, as shown on the Lights Out card above, there’s an arrow determining the direction you must complete them). When you get them all on your turn, you’ve completed the adventure and take the card as a trophy, as well as the rewards shown in the bottom-right corner.
If you don’t match any of the symbols, one die is removed and you try again until you can’t feasibly complete the challenge, whereupon the failure effects on the bottom-left take effect. In addition to Elder Signs, you can gain stuff to help you along the way – common and unique items, spells, and clue tokens. The items most often provide you with ways to get the yellow and red dice into your dice pool, while the spells allow you to lock dice, so that you can keep results for future tasks.
The adventure cards can also lock dice, however, making it that much more difficult to complete the tasks…
Some tasks are highlighted in white (or, as in the case on We Need to Find Help above, an area will be highlighted) – this denotes a space where a monster can appear. Monsters generally make the adventure more difficult, by replacing comparatively easy tasks with much more difficult – or costly – ones. You generally want to clear these out as soon as you can, though monsters are often also worth points as trophies, so it is something of a balance…
The game features the area mechanic of the Mythos deck, which is a timer of sorts…
A new Mythos card is revealed each time the clock reaches midnight, where the top portion of the card takes place immediately, while the bottom portion functions as something of an area effect, such as locking a die as mentioned earlier.
Among the rewards are also Other Worlds, which function in a similar manner to the adventure cards, but the tasks are a little more difficult, with the rewards a little better.
The whole point of the game, as I said, is to collect enough Elder Sign tokens to seal the Ancient One away forever. Certain effects – particularly Mythos cards and adventure failures – add tokens to the Ancient One’s doom track and, should that track fill up, the Ancient One awakens, triggering the final battle.
Should it come to this, the Ancient One functions a little like an adventure card in that it has a single task that the investigators must complete – if they do, a doom token is removed, and if the doom track is empty, the final battle is a success! If not, then the Ancient One will attack, as shown on the card.
Unlike its cousin Arkham Horror, you generally don’t want to confront an Ancient One in this game, as they can be particularly tough. One of the mechanics of the game allows an investigator to ‘focus’ a die following a failed task, where he chooses one from the pool to keep for later use: you can’t do this in the final battle. Elder Sign is a co-operative game, and if you fail a task, another investigator can come and assist you: you can’t do this in the final battle, either. (Personally, I feel this is a bit of a silly rule – thematically speaking, of course you’d all be working together to defeat the Ancient One!) Sure, it’s possibly to defeat the Ancient One, but it’s not advisable, and the main point of this game is to prevent the awakening.
I find this game just so immensely satisfying to play. It scratches my Arkham itch when I can’t face an hour’s set-up time, and I have had a lot of tense and exciting games! A lot of people will tell you the game is easy, but a lot of that depends on the luck of the card draw: if you get adventure cards that don’t give you Elder Signs, but a load of Mythos cards that add doom tokens, then it can pretty quickly become curtains for mankind.
Of course, there is the contentious issue of the Gift Shop. The game comes with a “museum front end” card that shows the other actions you can take on your turn, such as healing, or buying items. Each adventure card, when completed, becomes a trophy with a value – earlier, the Plateau of Leng card, for example, is worth 2 points. For 10 points, you can buy an Elder Sign at the gift shop (that’s some kind of gift shop), meaning you can quite easily go about the game by buying your way through. The Unseen Forces expansion fixes this, but I personally don’t have a problem with house-ruling that Elder Signs must be found and not bought when I’m playing the base game.
This brings me onto the tangent of rules and house rules, though. Arkham Horror is, for me, famous in this respect. The game’s designer Richard Launius (who is also responsible for Elder Sign) has publicly released a set of his personal house rules for his game, a document whose introduction really resonates with me. If you haven’t clicked the link, Launius explains that Arkham Horror is all about the adventure, and not winning and losing, but it’s also about fun. He likens the game to a RPG, where the rules will usually have an element of flux to them for the sake of telling a good story. As a GM myself, I suppose this way of looking at something comes very naturally to me – I’m not going to play a game that constantly whups me, as it won’t be fun.
So why not fudge the rolls? I’m not talking about out-and-out cheating, and as much as it’s not fun to play a game you always lose, it’s also not fun to play a game you know you’ll be winning. Instead, if something happens that is completely unexpected and you’ve almost ruined your game night, then just step back a bit and try again – or better yet, bring out your deus ex machina and let your characters live to tell the tale. What I’m trying to say is, I’m not above suppressing rules here and there if it means a more enjoyable experience for everyone. This doesn’t mean the same thing as making sure everyone wins, though.
Drawing the conversation back to Elder Sign specifically, I don’t think the ability to buy Elder Signs makes this game “too easy”, that the rule is “a flaw”, or anything similar. Some people might find it a real blessing, but if you feel the game is “broken” because of it – leave it out! It’s really very simple.
Anyway, I’ll dismount the soapbox now.
I really enjoy this game, as I say, and it’s something that I look forward to when I haven’t managed to play it in a while. It’s very strongly tied into the mythos of Arkham Horror, which will you’ll probably know by now is one of my favourites! If you still need convincing just how fun this game can be, why not watch Wil Wheaton and co playing the game?
Anyway, I hope you’re all having an excellent week, and come back soon for more!
I’m keeping the Halloween spirit going all this week, today with some short fiction! Remember the board game A Touch of Evil, and the excellent expansion, Something Wicked? Well, this was a session report I wrote up following a game with Inspector Cooke vs the Bog-Fiend a while ago, and thought it’d be an idea to share it with you guys this week. So sit back, and enjoy!
Something was wrong in Shadowbrook. Anybody who spent any amount of time in the town couldn’t shy away from that fact. However, nobody could say precisely what it was. I suppose that’s why they called me to the town. As a police inspector, I pride myself on my intelligence and my cunning – if anyone could get to the bottom of what was happening in Shadowbrook, I like to think it would be me…
It was raining when I arrived. The town, nestled in the dip of a shallow valley, had a slight haze surrounding it. My arrival caused no little surprise among the locals, but when they realised who I was and where I came from, I like to think I detected a slightly more positive shift in their attitude. I made at once to the manor house of Lord Hanbrook, with whom I had had some past dealings, and was apprised of the situation fairly quickly by a meeting of the town elders.
For weeks now, the countryside around Shadowbrook had been sinking. I admit, I was at first slightly nonplussed by this fact. However, where once was firm ground, good roads, and arable pasture, there was now fetid swamp. Hanbrook called me in when a local lad named Jack had disappeared, only to turn up one Sunday morning dead, having drowned in one of these newly-appeared swamps.
The locals were understandably afeared. Hanbrook appeared more concerned that he was losing the use of his land for rents, but the locals had different ideas. Age-old legends about bog-fiends began to surface, the stuff told to youngsters to make them more obedient, though this time repeated as fact. Well, I was unperturbed, and set off in my investigation.
I was staying at Hanbrooks manor, where one night I discovered a secret passage that led, it seemed, into the bowels of the earth. I followed the tunnel for what seemed like an age, and was utterly baffled – yes, I! – when I emerged at the monastery I had passed by on my way in to the town. The monastery, it turned out, was well-equipped with all manner of tomes and scriptures on the locality, and my perusal of the library there turned out to be quite fruitful.
I determined to return overland to Shadowbrook to converse more thoroughly with the locals, but a chance encounter at a wayside inn that evening turned me from this course. I was given a battered old book by a hooded stranger, who insisted I take it “for when the time comes”, before he left. That night, I studied the ancient text – which called itself the Book of Death – and determined to return to the monastery the following morning, having developed a strange inkling that there was more going on there than I had first thought.
The following morning dawned bright and crisp, and I walked up to the gate expecting to be met by one of the friars, yet no sooner had I arrived at the outer walls than the bells began to toll ominously. The monks began to scurry off in different directions, like ants under attack, and I had a prickly feeling as if something were not right here. Turning my gaze about the place, I kept being drawn to the mist-shrouded island across the lake – Echo Lake, I believe the locals call it. However, when I turned back to the monastery, I found myself set upon my hooded, masked individuals!
Two of these men – for men I assumed them to be – came at me with knives, while the others seemed to be whispering in some unknown language. My time in Shadowbrook had been strange up to that point, but now it had turned absolutely deadly! I searched my person for anything to use as a weapon, and fortunately came upon a crossbow I had purchased some time ago. I managed to loose a bolt at the nearest of the fiends, and – just like that! – the other devils vanished.
Squaring my shoulders, I marched up to the great West Door of the monastery and, seeing it open, slipped inside. Something at the back of my mind was telling me that the monastery lay near the heart of my investigation, and I determined to root out the cause of it. While wandering the echoing cloisters, however, I found myself attacked once more, this time by a short, stocky figure in a cowl. I had at first thought it one of the monks, but when that cowl fell back, I was shown the error of my judgement. The face that stared back at me was a cruel one, pallid and evil, with incised markings on the forehead and cheeks in the shape of a “x”. Luckily, my crossbow made short work of him, and with one bolt in the stomach, he fled back into the dusty catacombs from whence he came.
It was following this attack, however, that I felt the compelling need to return to Shadowbrook. Not a moment did I waste as I once again took to the road. As I drew nearer to the town, it seemed that my adversary had not been lax in his work. Vast swathes of the countryside had begun to simply sink; there was no other way to describe it. That haze of rain once more engulfed the town, but it was in no way enough to have brought about this much widespread flooding. However, my greatest shock was reserved for when I reached the crossroads just outside of the town.
Standing on that slightly raised bluff overlooking the town, it was as if Shadowbrook had been flooded. The town square was completely submerged, but not with rain water, or from the nearby river having burst its banks. This was a murky, green-tinged swamp, wreathed with clouds of buzzing mosquitoes. Not one townsperson was to be found, and I rather felt then that I had failed to save them all. However, as I stood gazing down on the land, a lone rider emerged through the mist – Lord Hanbrook himself.
The townspeople had fled when the swamp water began to rise out of the ground in the night, and were now temporarily housed on his estate. He bade me come with him to the crumbling ruin of a pre-war keep, where, he believed, the foul demon had made his lair. As we approached, it became increasingly obvious that something had happened close-by, for there was barely any solid ground to stand on. When we came upon the keep, however, the sight before us was one of foul horror.
A hunched figure, with a vague look of a man about him, sat in the dark recesses of the crumbling keep, gibbering to himself in a tongue not unlike the creatures that had attacked me in the monastery. It was completely naked, its skin a mottled blue-green, scaly in parts and weeping a slick, greasy ooze. When we drew nearer, its head came up quickly, revealing a scaled face with bony protrusions extending from either side, almost like a crown. It spat something evil-sounding, hissing and cursing in that unknowable tongue.
Hanbrook wasted no time in attacking the monster, and after my momentary horror, I too joined in the fray. The foul creature appeared to turn away our blows without so much as a gasp of pain, and it looked like we would not prevail. However, Hanbrook managed to subdue the beast long enough for me to get a shot with my crossbow right in the demon’s face, which elicited a disgusting wail. To my utter shock, the fiend’s final act on this earth was to rake its ghastly claws across the throat of Lord Hanbrook, causing my friend’s life to bleed out as did the foul beast’s own.
Whatever spell the bog fiend had placed upon the town of Shadowbrook was evidently broken with its passing. I returned to the town, with Hanbrook’s body carried by his faithful mount, to discover the swamp had disappeared, and the townsfolk returning to their homes and their lives. I charged Hanbrook’s corpse to the care of the doctor, and without a second look, left the town of Shadowbrook behind, hopefully forever…
It’s Halloween week, and while I don’t usually go in for all of that, I thought I’d mark it by devoting all my blogs this week to the horror theme. So you can expect a lot of Lovecraft in the coming days!
I’d like to start, however, with a look at one of the expansions to Fantasy Flight’s Arkham Horror – Dunwich Horror!
Now, let’s get this right out in the open from the start: this expansion is the best ever. Remember when I looked at Something Wicked for A Touch of Evil (another excellent horror-themed boardgame you should definitely check out!)? That expansion is really first-rate, and one of my favourites to be sure. However, Dunwich Horror is just perfect, and, I cannot stress enough, the best expansion to a board game ever. Why is this? Well, I’ll tell you.
(I’m not going to go over the basic rules of Arkham Horror, as I spent a while on those in my blog on the base game, which you can read here).
The system in Arkham Horror is quite straightforward – seal up six gates, or defeat the Ancient One, and you win. In order to describe the adventure, a whole slew of cards are involved; standard-sized cards for encounters in Arkham or the Other Worlds, and mini cards for the items and spells that you can acquire on your way around. The game’s AI is also shown through the cards of the mythos deck. As such, Dunwich Horror brings more of the same, with 332 new cards (there are nearly 370 in the base set).
Perhaps the most obvious thing about the expansion is the new board, however.
Depicting the sleepy hamlet of Dunwich, it comes with its own set of neighbourhood encounter cards, and two new Otherworlds. The new locations centre around the HP Lovecraft tale The Dunwich Horror, so we can visit the Whateley Farm, the Devil’s Hopyard, and even Sentinel Hill itself is featured!
Players travel to Dunwich through the Train Station, where they can pay $1 (and one movement point) rather than having an encounter there to move from the station to Bishop’s Brook Bridge, from where they can then explore the board as normal. The new locations are very much of a muchness, with 5 unstable locations and 4 stable. It obviously pays to have one investigator in Dunwich at the very least, to help combat gate openings there (as, indeed, would be your strategy when using any of the board expansions).
The Dunwich board has two other, linked features, however: the Vortices, and the Dunwich Horror track.
Bigger’n a barn!
The Dunwich Horror himself does indeed appear in this game, which is just wonderful! The way he interacts with the game, however, is quite interesting. You’ll notice on the new board that each of the three streets has an arrow pointing into a vortex space – when a monster is pushed into a vortex, it is removed from the board and placed back in the cup, and a Dunwich Horror token is added to the track. When there are three tokens on the track, the hell-spawn of Yog Sothoth appears on Sentinel Hill, ready to wreak havoc!
While it has a monster token like any other, there is also an associated deck of Dunwich Horror cards that are used whenever the investigators enter into combat with it, meaning that combat is never quite the same (though its toughness is always 5). Even if you defeat the Horror, you get to draw an item/ally card rather than keeping the token as a trophy, so he can always come back for another rampage…
More new monsters!
While we’re on the subject, Dunwich Horror adds a new type of monster, Stalkers. These are indicated by a purple border, and when they’re adjacent to an investigator, they will move directly to that investigator – even if it means ignoring the normal movement arrows! The only time a Stalker won’t follow an investigator is when he moves to a stable location, where he can pause for breath before once again braving the horror!
Two of the new Ancient Ones in this expansion have “special” monsters, which don’t enter the cup but come into play through other effects: Child of Ahoth and Servant of Glaaki. The red circles on these monsters denotes another new type of monster, Spawn Monsters. While primarily denoting their special status, the red circle also denotes that these monsters do not count towards the monster limit, and also they cannot be claimed as trophies.
New Ancient Ones and Investigators!
Yes, there’s more! Four new Ancient Ones have come to terrorize the town, and eight new Investigators are ready to fight back!
These new Ancient Ones are drawn from across the mythos, and include Shudde M’ell, who should be familiar from the core set’s spell card Red Sign of Shudde M’ell, the father of the burrowing Cthonians from the Brian Lumley story Cement Surroundings. Shudde M’ell can cause locations to disappear from the map, which is slightly unnerving! His World Cracking ability can potential lose the players the game, occurring whenever a monster surge hits. Yet another reason to keep those gates closed! Perhaps even more worrying, if he should happen to wake up, his attack is to discard one of the undrawn rubble tokens that signify a location has disappeared, and if there are no tokens left to discard, Arkham is destroyed and the players lose! With both Physical Resistance and Magical Resistance, and at most seven rounds of combat, this is not an Ancient One you want to mess with!
Tsathoggua is, I believe, the worst of the new guys, however. His effect is to prevent the special abilities of all but five locations in Arkham, and when he attacks, you must have monster and gate trophies to discard otherwise you’re devoured! Okay, so with the University and Boarding House having no special abilities, you don’t have a lot of options for what to do with your trophies, but even so, it’s pretty scary stuff!
I really like these new Ancient Ones, at any rate. In the base game, while they’re not exactly bland, they are fairly much of a muchness. These new ones, however, you need to really prepare for if your plan is to stock up for the Final Battle rather than seal six gates. If you happen to have one wake up on you when you don’t plan for that, it can be pretty awful!
While there are a lot of cards that are simply added into the existing Arkham decks, including a whole new set of neighbourhood encounters, there are also plenty of new cards to enjoy in this expansion as well!
You can now become a member of the Sheldon Gang, which can allow you to draw items when you’re in the streets, but you also run the risk of getting yourself arrested. There are also four new cards called Conditions that interact with specific locations (three in Arkham and one in Dunwich). The cards are only used during encounters at that location, and are ‘turned on’ by having an initial encounter there that usually requires a fairly elaborate process. However, they are very handy, particularly the Coded Messages card, which allows investigators to trade clue tokens (otherwise not allowed in the game).
The real meat of this expansion, for me, begins with the new types of Common and Unique items. In the Common Items deck are a series of Tasks, while the Unique Items have Missions for you to complete. The principle behind both is that you have encounters in the locations listed in order on the cards, after which you receive the payoff/effect.
Some of these are extremely powerful, such as the Sealing the Beast’s Power Mission, which allows you to lower the Ancient One’s Combat Modifier by 3, not to mention For the Greater Good, which requires an investigator to sacrifice himself in order for the others to automatically win the game. Of course, they’re no picnic to complete, as some of them send you off all over the board (or, in the case of the aforementioned For the Greater Good, four OtherWorlds). This sort of side quest mechanic is a whole lot of fun, and for me makes the game just that much more immersive.
Next up: Gate Bursts! Your average Mythos card will have the location of where the next gate opens but, if that location has been sealed by an Elder Sign, the gate bounces off, and all is well. No more! Dunwich Horror introduces Mythos cards with the gate’s location outlined in orange, meaning that a Gate Burst occurs there. While no doom token is placed by the Gate Burst, the Elder Sign is removed from the board, however, and the gate and monster placed as normal. An evil game just got much more scary!
Finally, we have my personal favourites of all the new cards: Injury and Madness cards.
Remember in the base game, when a combat encounter would reduce you to 0 stamina or sanity, so you’d immediately be whisked off to the Hospital or the Asylum for some medical care, and if you had enough money you could emerge fairly quickly as good as new? Well, no more! Yes, you can fully heal, but the encounters in Arkham (and the Otherworlds) are like no others you experience, so you can’t expect to escape from them just like that. Now, there are lasting effects you have to endure…
These cards are just inspired, I feel, and really should have been in the base game (at least Eldritch Horror learnt from this game!). When you find yourself in the Hospital, you gain an Injury card; when in the Asylum, a Madness card. These form a permanent debility that you cannot get rid of, and serve to make investigators much more cautious in their encounters. Furthermore, each deck is made up of two copies of twelve different cards, and should you find yourself with the same condition a second time, you’re immediately devoured! Combat just became a whole lot more dangerous!
This is truly one of the greats, and makes Arkham Horror a true juggernaut of the gaming world. In many ways, it behaves precisely as any game expansion should, by bringing some more of the same, some deeper immersion, some new mechanics, some new components, and some increased options. The new board, the new monsters, and the new Ancient Ones and Investigators would be enough for a lot of game expansions to go to retail, but Dunwich Horror brings us yet more, with the new options within the bucketload of new cards on offer. Yes, injury and madness cards should arguably be in the base game, but I do feel that they have the potential to decrease the core game’s wider appeal. Not to get snotty about this, but Arkham Horror is a busy game, and people I have introduced it to tend to be a bit overwhelmed at first. Adding in another mechanic could potentially put people off, so in that respect, I think it was right to leave those cards for an expansion.
I am a longtime fan of the HP Lovecraft story, so I am probably biased anyway, but I really love seeing the people and places from that tale here in the boardgame. The good thing about Arkham Horror, of course, is its modular nature, so you can add in bits that you want, and leave out others – indeed, you can leave out the new board and just use the new cards, investigators, ancient ones and monsters to increase your options in the base game. As hinted already, madness and injury cards should be top of your list if you decide to do this!
But there’s nothing quite like the full experience of one of these big box expansions for Arkham Horror!
Buy it from amazon:
Today’s the day the clocks go back here in the UK, so obviously I woke up at 2am. Bah!
It’s been a fairly lacklustre week, so far as gaming goes. I got to play a couple of games earlier in the week, which will feature here at some point in the coming weeks, no doubt – top of the list, of course, being Elder Sign, which is a great little game from Fantasy Flight that I’ve mentioned a couple of times lately, especially when the new expansion was announced not too long ago.
I’m finding myself seemingly unable to get the time for large-scale gaming lately though, and this saddens me quite a lot. Sticking with Cthulhu games, I’ve been feeling in the mood to play Eldritch Horror again lately, as I’ve not managed a game since May, when the expansion came out. So much for my summer of Yig, hey… Real life has got a lot to answer for! However, I suppose it doesn’t help that my usual gaming table for such big games has been taken over lately, by either the degree work or my painting adventures.
I haven’t really regaled you all with such things for a while, have I? Well, my painting miniatures has continued apace, with all of my updates being confined to tumblr. There is a link over on the right to my Necrons page, where I link to all of my tumblr posts as I make them, so you can always investigate further if you’re so inclined, anyway! This weekend, however, I’ve moved on to the first “big” model for my Necron army, the Tomb Stalker!
This is something that I got from Forge World earlier in the month, one of their resin kits. I’ve been painting the beast in segments, as it seems almost unnecessarily complicated, though I suppose all of the bits allow for greater customization and such. My original plan was to have the model swooping down onto a Space Marine, but during last night’s modelling this proved to be unfeasible (there are a lot of bits that go under the head, for instance, so the stalker needs to be raised up in the front anyway), so I’m now onto plan B.
I think it still looks pretty cool, however! There are twenty legs, each of which has a separate claw that needs to be attached, and an additional twenty “tertiary velocitators”, which are just small legs that I don’t think will be impacting much on the model’s final pose due to the fact they’re so small. Anyway. I originally had some terrain on the base, from which the stalker was swooping, but have since removed this as it was interfering with the pose. While my current plan doesn’t really call for any more terrain, just the Space Marine casualty, I think I may still do something when the time comes, as it could help to attach the model to the base.
The whole thing should look pretty damn good when it’s done, anyway! The green carapace will be finished with a bit of a metallic look, along with the silver main body and gold details (such as the head) are intended to fit in well with the Lychguard colour scheme I have going on.
The entire Necron army I have currently is also looking really good, I think! The recent additions include a squad of Deathmarks and some special characters. I’m quite pleased with my results, anyway – which you can see here!
In game news, anyway, there hasn’t been a great deal to write home about. We’ve had another preview of Imperial Assault, which talks about the missions and such, and looks like it’s shaping up into a great game. Like the campaigns in Descent, missions form an overarching series of games, but Imperial Assault also includes side missions, which are single-game affairs. Nice to see that the game will be supporting multiple styles of play, at any rate!
Armada has had another preview, also, though I must admit to being still less-than-enthused by this game. When it was announced back in August, I was slightly underwhelmed because I wanted a ground-based miniatures game, not another space battles game. Now that we have Imperial Assault on the horizon, of course, I had half-expected my opinion to change, but it really hasn’t. As it stands, I’m still feeling a bit meh about the game, so at this stage I won’t be dropping the £60 that amazon are currently asking for it (although I did do a double-take when looking at that, as I was expecting it to be more expensive!).
I think part of the reason for my reluctance to even entertain the thought of this game is down to having nobody to play it with. I got burned a little with X-Wing, which I have stopped buying for now, as I have managed to play it three times since its release nearly two years ago, all three of which games took place nearly two years ago. I dread to think how much I’ve actually spent on the game, and am seriously considering letting go on ebay, but I’ve sold games previously, only to berate myself for doing so, and then re-buying them anyway (Blood Bowl and Space Hulk: Death Angel are but two examples).
So, I think I’m going to avoid Armada for the time being, and likely won’t be rushing to buy it at release.
Something that has excited me this week, however, is the release of The Nin-In-Eilph, the latest addition to The Lord of the Rings. With all the hoopla surrounding The Road Darkens, it was almost possible to forget we were actually in the middle of an adventure pack cycle! So we have some interesting new cards coming our way, along with a quest that seems to be akin to The Dead Marshes but different. If that makes sense… It looks like it should be a really good game, anyway, so I’m looking forward to this.
To my eternal shame, however, I’ve not actually played any of the Ringmaker quests yet, and have only played the first scenario in Voice of Isengard once, back in March! How shocking. I should probably set aside a weekend to delve more thoroughly into Dunland.
I’m still feeling in a RPG mood, something that has been prevalent throughout the whole year, really. Bringing us back to Warhammer, I took delivery of The Outer Reach last week, a book I’d ordered weeks and weeks ago. If you checked the link, you’ll most likely see why – the Necron Overlord plastered all over the front should tell you all you need to know!
In the absence of a codex for the Necrons (that is, an updated codex), I’ve been hungry for knowledge of these guys that I’ve spent about two months building and painting, but The Outer Reach marks my first proper look at Necron stuff. The illustrations alone make this book invaluable for me, and indeed helped to inspire my golden Necron Overlord, but something that I particularly enjoyed was seeing RPG stats for almost the whole range of Games Workshop Necron models! Wonderful stuff. The secondary function of this book then began to appear for me, and I’ve been considering it as perhaps ‘my new RPG’.
The Outer Reach is a supplement for the Deathwatch role playing game, in which the players take on the roles of elite Space Marines from a variety of chapters, who have been pulled together to form a kill team and tasked with eliminating a xenos threat. The idea does sound pretty cool, and I imagine it would hook a lot of people in. Added to that is the fact that all of FFG’s roleplaying games for Warhammer 40k are compatible with each other, there is a whole slew of options! However, one of the strongest criticisms of the line I’ve read is that the actual role playing opportunities are somewhat minimal, as the game is very much forced along by the need to basically hunt out and exterminate enemies, with very little else involved. In that respect, I suppose something like Black Crusade (where you play Chaos Space Marines looking to corrupt people) or Dark Heresy (where you play members of the Inquisition looking to root out heresy) would be the more interesting option.
Each of these games has a starter adventure that you can try out, and that for Deathwatch is called Final Sanction. Having looked over the pdf, I think it might be worth taking a look at, especially given the pre-generated characters mean it’s very much a matter of gathering your people and your dice and playing the game. The recent flurry of Space Hulk interest might also help, as this adventure sees your kill team going after a genestealer infestation, much as in that game. Well, anyway, we’ll see.
Also on the subject of Deathwatch, yesterday I read the short story The Infinite Tableau from the Deathwatch: Xenos Hunters. Again, I only got this because of the Necron connection. The story follows a kill team investigating the disappearance of a group of Adeptus Mechanicus (the technological subgroup in the Imperium) on an icy moon, and describes the horror they find when they get there. It’s pretty good; its appeal, for me, largely resting on an almost Lovecraftian Mountains-of-Madness feel as the kill team find the arcane piece of technology and so on. The story features the Necron special character Trazyn the Infinite, with some gore provided by a pack of Flayed Ones. Delightful!
I’m still reading Orion: The Vaults of Winter, on which I will provide more of a critique when I’m finished. For now, suffice it to say the story is heavy-going…
Anyway, I’m going to leave you with this video for Colt Express, a newly-released game of bandits fighting each other for the most loot…from a moving train…
It’s a double feature here at spalanz.com today! After my earlier look at Tsuro, I thought I’d pop back with another of my favourites… The Massing at Osgiliath!
By now, I’m sure you’ll all know that I love The Lord of the Rings LCG. After discussing the game at some length, as well as the first cycle of adventure packs, I thought I’d bring some of my thoughts on the first of the print on demand expansions.
Fantasy Flight have really strongly supported this game through their organised play programme, by developing specific decks to challenge players. At Gen Con each year, they’ve brought out a progression of scenarios that have been a challenge to the meta. Massing at Osgiliath came out (here in the UK, at least) during the Mirkwood cycle, so with a comparatively small card pool it was seen as a monster of a scenario, but at the remove of just over three years, there are now plenty of ways to counter the various twists and turns…
It’s a 45-card pack, four of which are the quest cards, so you’re getting a fairly decent encounter deck, straight off. The premise of the game is that your heroes have formed a scouting party to investigate the increased Orc activity in Osgiliath, but what they’ve found is too much for them, and they need to get back Minas Tirith to warn the realm of Gondor. From the off, therefore, you’re under pressure as you’re being followed by the outriders.
Something that I absolutely love about this scenario is the sense of movement provided by the Crossing the Anduin mechanic.
There are eleven location cards in the deck, five of which are West Bank. Now, you cannot travel to West Bank locations until stage 4B, putting the pressure on to speed right through the quest to stop them clogging up the staging area. Fortunately the previous quest cards don’t have particularly high points, and with a little luck you may only encounter enemies in the deck (did I really just say that?!). Of course, once you’ve crossed the Anduin, things are hardly the picnic, as a lot of the cards have buffs to them once you’re on stage 4B.
You’re also joined in stage 4B by none other than the Witch-king himself! There were Nazgûl in Escape from Dol Guldur of course, but this guy is truly terrifying. With an engagement cost of 40, the odds are you’ll be meeting him swiftly after crossing the Anduin – but even if you don’t, he has a threat value of 6, so you’ll want to get him out of the staging area as soon as you can. But wait – after each attack, you must raise your threat by 3 in order to keep him engaged with you, otherwise he’s flying right back to the staging area anyway! With 6 attack and 6 defense, as well as a massive 11 hit points, this is one beast of a guy, and just the crowning piece in a truly horrible scenario! Of course, nowadays there are ways and means, but back in the day, his appearance would usually be curtains for most players. It still sends a shiver up the spine…
The treachery cards are similarly, well, treacherous, with four of the little blighters that force the discard of allies in your hand. For a scenario that needs a lot of willpower, getting rid of your allies before you even get to play them is a low blow. The possibility of getting that card four times can be a bit of a bitch, too…
But it’s not all bad for there are two Objective cards in this deck that can really add to the excitement – yes, I’m talking about the Rangers!
Massing at Osgiliath wasn’t the first quest to do this of course – Escape from Dol Guldur and Conflict at the Carrock both include Objective cards in the encounter deck that can be really beneficial. But there has always been something uniquely satisfying when one of those Rangers comes out of the deck – indeed, it’s really quite thematic; you can almost imagine being part of a harried fellowship, fighting to escape from the Orcs, and just when you’re praying you don’t encounter a hideous Wainrider, a Ranger of Ithilien springs out of nowhere, fully prepared to help out on your quest! These guys don’t give you a free pass, as they do have the surge keyword, but they enter play under your control and committed to the quest, so they are a really timely boon! It wasn’t until the Dwarrowdelf cycle that I’ve looked forward to seeing an Objective card so much…
Massing at Osgiliath is a whole load of fun, and even after all these years, it’s an encounter that I really enjoy. As I said above, it’s been just over three years since it first entered general circulation, and in that time the player-card pool has grown considerably, but if, like me, you prefer to play thematic decks over the sort of power-rush things, this can still give you a run for your money. It brings back fond memories for me, of almost chain-playing this game over the christmas of 2011, when I just couldn’t get enough of it. In fact, I wrote up my very first attempt with this game over on boardgamegeek, which you can read here!
I still love it, however, and as expected, I feel like breaking out the cards and having another crack at escaping across the Pelennor Fields!
Buy it from amazon:
The Massing at Osgiliath