New game thoughts

Morning everybody!
It’s the morning after the day before that was, on reflection, pretty awesome! Well, a lot of my Saturday was taken up with degree work, as I’m partially behind (well, okay, I’m just behind on the work…), so I spent the morning in the company of Aeschylus’ Persians. Last weekend was spent with a really enjoyable look at Greek history in the 7th and 6th centuries BC, to get the historical background on how Greece changed between the Homeric era and the Classical era. Really interesting, all that, especially as I’d never looked at the whole picture before. The Persian Wars were always just a name, for me, so it was pretty awesome to finally get to see what it was all about! Then came the play, however… You know how someone says, for example, their life is like a Greek tragedy, or somesuch? I’d only previously encountered tragedy through the work of Euripides, and have always found his work to be quite good – it can be over-the-top melodramatic, but it has a thrust to the action that means it’s often really quite dynamic in its drama. Not so, Aeschylus. At least, from my reading of Persians. There’s a dire stasis to the action, if indeed you can call it that – the translator of the version I read sums it up as “a community receives some bad news, and everybody weeps”, which is about right! I get the feeling that, at its performance, it must have been a peculiarly gratifying experience for the Athenians to see how they imagine their vanquished enemy behaved, with the overwhelming message of “we were wrong to mess with the Greeks” coming out loud and clear, especially at the end.

But then I was saved by game deliveries!

X-Wing

All I can say is, huzzah for Amazon vouchers! The latest LCG stuff looks pretty good – Galadriel hero! – and while I have next to no knowledge of Guardians of the Galaxy, it’s always nice to have more cards for the Marvel Legendary deck-builder! However, X-Wing…

Those of you with discerning taste, who have been reading my blog for any length of time, may know that this game has been something of a bête-noire for me, as I’ve been collecting ships wave upon wave, yet have not played a single game since late in 2012, back when the game was initially released with just three ships to play (though, with four core sets to my name, I had a few more than just the three). Well, last week I was in the local game shop, looking at what’s on offer and such, and ended up in conversation with a chap there who is an avid player, and with whom I’m hoping to set up a game with at some future date! Well, we’ll see I guess…

X-Wing

The new ships are something of an expanded universe extravaganza. The YT-2400, best known as the Outrider from Shadows of the Empire, looks very pretty, and comes with everybody’s favourite gambler, Lando Calrissian. I’m not a huge fan of Dash Rendar, but it’s always good to see EU characters making the jump to games like this.

X-Wing

The VT-49 Decimator was, for me, a much more curious beast. It’s the largest Imperial ship in the game so far, and comes with a pretty impressive cast that includes Moff Jerjerrod from Return of the Jedi, but also Mara Jade and Ysanne Isard! Even though the pre-release articles had mentioned this, as I’d not really been following them I was particularly impressed to see the Director of Intelligence in the game! The ship stems from the 2003 MMORPG Galaxies, anyway, so I must admit I wasn’t all that aware of it at first. But still, seeing as how the Rebels have their epic Tantive IV and such, it’s nice to see some big stuff for the Empire, too!

Of course, all of this was soon obliterated by the afternoon’s arrival…

Shadows of Brimstone

Again, long-time readers will likely know of my agonising wait for this game! Just days after the anniversary of the kickstarter end, the game is with me! There’s a hell of a lot of content in these two boxes, I have to say. First impressions of the content, however, are a little less than favourable. It’s been no secret that the project has pretty much haemorrhaged money for Flying Frog, whose production costs far outweighed the pledge levels people enjoyed, and which led to them selling some of the games at GenCon, despite the actual backers not having had their copies yet. On the one hand, it seemed like a big slap in the face to the people who fronted-up the money to make the project work, but on the other, I really feel for them as a company. Indeed, I’m pretty sure there must have been a few times over the past year where they probably wish they’d never bothered. Anyway, I hope that the game does really well for them, so they can start getting the rest of the kickstarter content to us!

The point of all that, however, is that the game doesn’t seem to compare well with other FFP games – the shiny cards, the thick cardboard, etc. I really hesitate to say this, but it feels like a rush job. The card is average quality, the cardboard is average quality, the minis do not look hobby-quality (by which I mean, they don’t hold up to Citadel standards, in my opinion), and even stupid stuff like the box inlay isn’t really up to scratch – the rulebook and adventure book for Swamps of Death doesn’t fit in the space, so has come curved, for instance, and the middle cards recess doesn’t allow you to reach down for all of the cards, making it difficult to get every card out of there.

It certainly doesn’t feel like Fortune and Glory, the game I’d been mentally comparing it to in terms of content etc. But still. I feel like I’m being unnecessarily harsh on the game now, so will wait and see how it plays. I have over half the models from Swamps of Death assembled now, so hopefully once I’ve done the other half, I can have a game and see how it all works out!

Though not, of course, before I make more of an effort with my degree work…

Shadows of Brimstone

At last!

There shall be no big game Saturday today, for it is here: Shadows of Brimstone!

Shadows of Brimstone Shadows of Brimstone Shadows of Brimstone Shadows of Brimstone

It took me an hour just to punch out all the bits and pack them up! There will be time for first impressions soon, of course, but now – it’s time to bask in the fact that it’s finally here!

As an update… here’s the product of the last two and a half hours:

Shadows of Brimstone

Hopefully it won’t be too long before I can actually start to play this game!

Dawn of the Jedi

Hey folks!
After a couple of weeks with various Warhammer novels, I’ve returned to Star Wars, and the dim and distant past of that universe – Dawn of the Jedi!

Dawn of the Jedi

Set over 25,000 years before the events of A New Hope, the comic series tells of the mythic origins of the Jedi Order, as Je’daii on the Inner Core world of Tython.

I’d been looking forward to these books since publication began in February 2012, though have only now got round to reading them – shocking, I know. From the Dark Horse dream-team of John Ostrander and Jan Duursema, who are responsible for some of the most awesome comics in the entire history of Star Wars publishing, I had high hopes, but I must admit, having read the first arc, Force Storm, I was left feeling a little disappointed. Let me explain.

Star Wars is, of course, science fiction, and so requires a reasonably high level of tech in any story being told. The danger of doing prequels in these circumstances is always to make the tech side of things not as advanced as the original, and yet still sufficiently advanced from our own society. The prequels famously got this kinda screwy with a whole host of aspects, and only vaguely tried to write it off as comparable to art deco before the cheap mechanical era of the 40s and 50s. The original Tales of the Jedi series managed to pull this off to an extent, with having its powerpack-fueled lightsabers, but the later Knights of the Old Republic still managed to incorporate some technology that, undoubtedly, looks really cool on the page, but looks much more advanced than the stuff we see 3000+ years later in-universe.

From the off, Dawn of the Jedi features some ships and droids that don’t look all that different from prequel-era and classic-era ships and tech, which instantly destroys the conceit that this story is taking place over 25,000 years before those eras. Even accepting that the Rakatan Infinite Empire was a race apart in the tech stakes, the Je’daii still have some nifty stuff that Luke, or Han, would be familiar with. To me, this either assumes that (a) there was little-to-no technological development over the subsequent 25,000+ years, or (b) this is a badly-designed comic, which has sacrificed any historical aesthetic for the sake of “being Star Wars”. Personally, I would have assumed something set 25,000 years before A New Hope would be like a Stone Age society.

Anyway!

My historical gripes aside, the story isn’t too bad. The execution suffers quite a lot from being overly expositional, but you really can’t hold that against it, given the trail we’re blazing here (just a shame the visuals didn’t match up – okay, okay, I’ll stop griping now).

here be spoilers!

We have a really compelling tale of Eye of Palpatine-like constructions floating throughout the galaxy herding up Force-sensitives to take them to Tython. Concentration Camp analogies aside, we don’t hear anything about how this worked – were the Tho Yor spaceships sentient? How did they find the Force sensitives? Just what was going on? At any rate, the ships deposited the Force sensitives on Tython, where they formed a society that, over the centuries, developed into a whole solar system of peoples. I was a bit baffled by this – my physics is rudimentary at best, but I thought there was an optimum distance from a solar body for life to exist comfortably. We have at least three planets in this system that support life with no mention of specific habitats being developed to facilitate this, so I was a bit confused by all this.

I realise I’m being really down on this book – so I shall move on to the good stuff!

The main story is actually really interesting. The Rakata, who you may remember from the Knights of the Old Republic video games, trawl the galaxy searching for Force sensitives to “reap”, and following their harvest of the lush world of Tatooine (clearly a shout-out, and quite cheesy at that), their attention is turned to Tython and the Je’daii community there. The Force Hound, Xesh, is sent to Tython, very much in the manner of the Silver Surfer, but ends up in a confrontation with three Je’daii Journeyers, who I assume are being set up for a starring role later in the series. These three – a Dathomiri, a Twi’lek, and a pureblood Sith – follow the pattern of almost every major Star Wars series, of having a leading trio. Something that really grated on me was all that “princess” nonsense from the Dathomiri, Shae Koda, which I feel was obviously meant to be a throw-back to the by-play of Han and Leia – but, what the hell?! Anyway. It’ll be interesting to see if and how the dynamic of these three is developed.

The planet of Tython has several distinct areas, and feels quite nicely developed as a world. The Je’daii community has built a series of temples on the planet, which serve as something of a training ground in different disciplines. This aspect of the story is part of something that I really caught onto in this tale. The Je’daii community has almost the feel of an eastern culture to it – I hesitate to say samurai, of course, but there is a definite feel of that kind of thing to it, which is precisely what the ancient origins of the Jedi Order should have, in my opinion! I really hope we get some more of that in later issues.

There are also ties to the meta history of the Jedi here. Fans may know that George Lucas originally had ideas for the light and dark side to be called the ashla and the bogan, which here are the names of the two moons. The core tenet of the Je’daii philosophy is to achieve and maintain balance, not to be too dark, nor too light. If a Je’daii goes too far into the light, he is sent to Ashla (the moon) “to meditate on Bogan”, and vice-versa. An interesting concept, and already there is some conflict being set up, as we see an exile on Bogan with a strangely scarred face.

Xesh, the Force Hound, is captured at the end of the book, and is sent to Bogan to meditate on the darkness of his soul – something that the scarred prisoner already there seems to welcome…

In spite of all my griping (and my spoilers!), I can still recommend you read this book, as it is an interesting story if you can get past the tech stuff. I’m certainly glad I read it, and am really intrigued for the second arc, the Prisoner of Bogan…

Dawn of the Jedi

On the hunt!

Hey folks!
This weekend, instead of one big-game Saturday, I had a series of plays with Lord of the Rings, going through some of the classic scenarios from the early days of the game. It’s something I like to do at this time of the year, have a trek through some of my favourites from the Mirkwood Cycle, along with one or two from the Core Set. There are so many awesome things about these quests, I just cannot recommend them enough! So I saddled up my Rohan heroes, and away!

Lord of the Rings LCG

Something that I was particularly pleased with was getting in a game of Journey Along the Anduin, something I hadn’t managed since December 2011, can you believe!!

Lord of the Rings LCG

Theodred, poor sod, died on his way through Mirkwood, so he had been replaced by the mighty Eomer – and luckily, I kept drawing Firefoot into my hand early on, so it was all quite marvellous, I have to say!

Lord of the Rings LCG

The Hunt begins! I had a very successful hunt, with three Signs turning up quite quickly and none of those pesky hunters, too! Marvellous!!

Lord of the Rings LCG

Hills of Emyn Muil is, of course, my favourite, but it didn’t go very well – I turned up three of those Horse Thieves in quick succession, tying up a lot of my fellowship, but I didn’t manage to turn up enough Emyn Muil locations before I threated-out! It still annoys me when people say this is the easiest scenario, as it isn’t! Anyway. Something that occurred to me during this game was how abstract the notion of collecting VPs is here – I think I’d prefer to use the Signs of Gollum cards here, too – we are, after all, trying to pick up his trail again. Might be worth investigating for the future, anyway, adding in those four cards and making the victory condition 20VPs, no Emyn Muil locations, and at least one Signs card in play. Hmmmmm…

Lord of the Rings LCG

Finally, it was time to go into the Dead Marshes, to try and find the little bugger! As luck would have it, while things didn’t precisely go all that well to start with, I managed to get a really hefty fellowship built up here, so when it came to the final Escape test, I had something like 18 willpower to commit – even drawing six cards for the test, I managed to beat it, and took hold of Gollum in triumph!

A fabulous trek through Mirkwood, and recommended to all and sundry!

Lord of the Rings LCG

My trip to Parys

Hey folks!
Yeah, let’s get this out there now – I don’t mean the city in France. Summer last year, I went to Anglesey for the umpteenth time, finally getting to visit Parys Mountain for the first time. You may be aware that, in the midst of all my gaming, I’m also a very big fan of history, and industrial history is something that holds a special kind of fascination for me…

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Parys Mountain was basically a massive copper mine that was used during the eighteenth century, at the height of its fame in the 1780s it was the largest mine in Europe.

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There are still quite a few relics of the mining process around the mountain, the most famous being the windmill (above).

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While Anglesey is, in general, a wonderful place, Parys Mountain is fantastic, and definitely worth checking out if you’re in the Amlwch area!

New Stuff!

Hey everybody!
Thought I’d take a look at some of the new stuff that’s been floating about the internet of late, see what’s happening in the board game world, and the like. You love it!

Descent Heirs of Blood

First of all, I’d just like to announce that I’m intrigued by this. Not being a 1st Edition-er, I’m not entirely sure what to expect from this. A campaign of 32 adventures, I’m assuming it’s just going to be a bloated version of any of the quest books from any of the boxes available for the game. Which isn’t a bad thing, don’t get me wrong! Given the narrative, I really hope they make it work really well with the lieutenants for the Farrows. We’ll have to see what Q1 brings, I suppose! As I’ve often said, though, I’m a big fan of seeing game lines supported, so it’s always a pleasure to see new stuff for games.

Another preview for Imperial Assault has gone up, showing off the Mercenary faction. I have to admit, I hadn’t really realised they were going to be making an appearance in the core box, despite there being a nexu quite obviously on the main page for the game! I’ve kinda lost track on whether this game is going to be out in time for xmas, though the Upcoming page of the FFG website does have it listed as on the boat, so…

I’m sure everyone has by now seen the news that FFG are going to merge into the Asmodee group? This is something that I totally didn’t see coming, but as I’ve been up to my elbows in essay this past week I hadn’t had the time to say anything about it until now. Amid the “no massive changes/business as usual” assurances, one of the biggest things to come out of this for me was the news that FFG will be able to take advantage of Asmodee’s distribution network in Europe – I’m hoping this means we’ll be able to get the games as quickly as our American friends across the water! Currently it’s very hit-and-miss, so that’ll be nice. The idea that “a few of FFG’s products” may transition to other publishers within the group has been taken by some on the internet to assume that FFG will be moving back to designing more “hardcore” boardgames that they were originally known for, such as Runebound. The historian in me doesn’t believe anything without seeing the first-hand evidence, but it’s definitely a very nice idea! Asmodee have an impressive portfolio of games (indeed, any amazon search will invariably bring up pages and pages of games that stem from the Asmodee group), but I hope FFG won’t get diluted/absorbed by that…

DC Forever Evil

Still waiting for this to be released – currently expected 3 December, so we’ll see. Apparently, it has a Bane promo card, but unlike previous releases, we’ll all get the promo card. So, it’s just a card, then, really. But anyway. I’m no fan of promo cards, so this is good. I haven’t played DC for a long time, despite picking up the Crisis Expansion when it came out earlier in the year. Might be worth giving it another look, methinks, anyway…

Warhammer Khaine

The End Times continue for Warhammer Fantasy with part three: Khaine. God of War for the High Elves, and of Murder for the Dark Elves, Khaine is definitely a destructive personality, so it’ll be very interesting to see what happens to the elves in this installment. I was one of the lucky ones who was able to place a pre-order; like the previous books in the series, this one also sold out – but within 20 minutes of being made available for pre-order! Ridiculous.

While I’m all for creating excitement about products and so forth, I’d be embarassed if I was working for Games Workshop. How can a company that has been around for so long be so incredibly bad at projecting sales? This has been going on since Nagash back at the end of August now, and from what I’ve been reading online, and from conversations I’ve been having and hearing at local stores, this sales strategy is pleasing nobody. Some people think it’s to drive up the e-version sales, while others think it’s just bad planning (these books have been in development for months, after all). For it to keep happening, however, is just shameful, and it strikes me that, if this were any other company, the merchandising team would have been sacked to a man, for a start. There are a whole bunch of people who want to buy from them, but because of their own business model, can’t. What sort of company actively discourages sales? Sheesh. (Remember folks, I don’t work in retail, so all of this is my own – limited – opinion!)

At any rate, I’ve been busy with my Lizardmen project in the breaks between essay-writing:

Warhammer Lizardmen Skinks

Hardly an army’s-worth, but I’ve been enjoying the change from Necrons! Lizardmen are really what got me into Warhammer all those years ago, so I’ve been enjoying this “getting back to my roots” sorta feel! Of course, I once again run the risk of having a whole plethora of models that will require painting at some point, but I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it. For now, I’ve just been enjoying building these guys up!

A little touch of evil…

Hey everybody!
Thought I’d try something a little different today. At the weekend, I had an epic game of A Touch of Evil, using the bulk of the expansions (all except the Madness supplement, and The Coast). Fantastic times! So let’s take a look…

A Touch of Evil

I took Abigail Stern and Eliza the Witch Hunter on a trek to root out the taint that has been infesting Shadowbrook… Things didn’t really start well, with Eliza seemingly constantly going up against enemies she was ill-equipped to deal with, while the rumours of foul deeds around Echo Lake attracted the occult-specialist Abigail…

A Touch of Evil

Eliza followed, the two determined to investigate the talk of cultists performing dread deeds in the dead of night…

A Touch of Evil

The South Dock turned out to be a breeding ground for these depraved rites, with cultists – and other evil creatures – blossoming on the docks like rancid pustules on a corpse. However, the clues began to point in the direction of a greater evil – an unspeakable horror – behind these disturbances, and Abigail and Eliza found themselves at the last place they ever expected to be when they confronted it:

A Touch of Evil

Eliza had sought out several useful artifacts that assisted in the fight, strengthening her conviction to go up against the abomination from the void.

A Touch of Evil

However, most impressive was the way Abigail had managed to learn so much…

A Touch of Evil

When the time came, Abigail was more than prepared to face the horror – in one herculean effort, she managed to send the abomination back into the void, and secure the safety of Shadowbrook once and for all…

A Touch of Evil


This game was tremendous. I love Abigail’s ability to use her Cunning instead of her Combat, combined with the Student ability that improves her Cunning for each book item she has. Last year, I wrote an extensive review of Hero Pack 2, where the hero version of Abigail (she’s an Ally in Something Wicked) appears, and worked out she can max out at a theoretical 25 Cunning:

(For those of you interested, the base game gives two Book Town Items, one of which gives +1 Cunning; there is a Book of the Occult at the Abandoned Keep which gives +2 Cunning (and is an Occult Item); the Book of Town History at the Windmill gives +1 Cunning; the Book of Witchcraft at the Olde Woods gives +1 Cunning, and with a Party Invitation she can carry both the Family Bible and Book of Medicine from The Manor, for a core set total of 12 Cunning. Something Wicked has the Explorer’s Journal for +2 Cunning on the Forgotten Island; either the Keeper’s Registry or the Book of Death from The Inn; the Book of Lies from the Monastery, and you’ll definitely want to add the Scroll of Knowledge Monastery Item to the list, which is a book and allows you to re-roll any Cunning dice, including using Cunning instead of Combat! Something Wicked includes a Book of Riddles for the Manor deck, giving +1 Cunning, so you could swap that out for the Bible or the Medicine book – Something Wicked adds 8 Cunning, or 7 to the running total if you make the switch. The Coast gives us the Captain’s Log at the Shipwreck, a Book with +2 Cunning; Smuggler’s Cove gives us the Ship’s Manifest Book, and the Lighthouse gives us our second Occult Item, the Serpent’s Tooth, for +2 Cunning. There are two books available from Tidewater, but they don’t add anything that the Town Item books haven’t already provided; The Coast therefore adds 6 Cunning and another health box. 12+7+6=25!)

That’s pretty impressive, though during this game I managed a respectable 13 Cunning. However, I quickly found myself amassing Investigation tokens during the game, and had little to spend them on. Consequently, both heroes got to the Showdown with oodles of clues, so the Unspeakable Horror’s Last Hope special ability made for a very easy finish – Abigail basically killed it off in this manner.

However, this is largely because I spent so much time on the game. Well, anyhow. I lost five of the Town Elders, meaning I was actually only one move on the shadow track from the whole thing going crazy!

I love playing this game with the Unspeakable Horror. This was definitely a fitting game for my Big Game Saturday this week!


So, a bit of a session report style thing going on there. Let me know if you liked the format!

 

Some Sunday musings

Hey everyone!
It’s been something of a quiet week here, hence the solitary game-day blog on Tuesday I suppose. Did anyone read it? It’s about Dominion, the grandfather of the deck-building games, and one that I often enjoy, but rarely get to play. See, deck-building games have evolved so much since Dominion burst onto the scene that going back to the original can sometimes be a little, well, boring. Take, for example, Marvel Legendary, which is a deck-building game where you also get to fight classic Marvel villains (or heroes!) as you build your deck. Or Thunderstone, where you have the option of acquiring cards in the deck-building manner or delving into a dungeon to fight monsters in your search for the legendary thunderstone. These games, with their increased options that have refined the deck-building genre into a more recognisable game usually find their way to the table more often than the one that started it all. A shame, really.

This coming Tuesday, I hope to do something a bit different with my game day blog, so hopefully you’ll all enjoy that!

I have an essay due next week, so have been working on that for the past few days, also. Have you read the Odyssey? It’s a really good book anyway, but studying it can make it so much more interesting. The book details the return of Odysseus from the Trojan War, when he finds his palace overrun with suitors to his wife Penelope, all of whom believe he is dead. The book begins with his son Telemachus on something of his own hero’s journey, and the essay poses a question about hospitality in the ancient world as seen through his experiences. It’s a cracking read, like I say, but the translation that forms the set book for my course is really uninspiring. If you’d like to investigate what on earth I’m talking about, I recommend the Penguin translation, by EV Rieu. I used that when I studied the Odyssey at A level, and it’s much more readable.

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The Fall of Altdorf #Warhammer #Nurgle #Glottkin #Chaos

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I’ve been reading The Fall of Altdorf since its release earlier in the month, and finished that at the beginning of last week. The second book in the End Times series, it loosely follows on from The Return of Nagash, though the events of that book take on much more of a back seat. At the end of the first book, Nagash raised Vlad von Carstein back from the dead (again), and that provides the link here. In this book, we see the forces of Chaos march against the Empire, with the Vampire Counts forming a third arc to the story. The book has obviously strong ties to the Glottkin release it accompanied, so we see the pestilent swarm cutting a huge swath through the Empire, decimating all that it leaves behind.

Please be aware, I’m discussing spoilers for the book here!

I was really, deeply impressed with this book. While I have, to some extent, enjoyed every Warhammer novel I have read so far, this one was like a new experience for me, as I devoured as much as I could of it night after night. I’ve never really been all that interested in the Empire before – it’s always been just the humans in a setting with much more fantastical creatures to pique my imagination – but Chris Wraight has successfully interested me with this book! I already have the Swords of the Emperor omnibus, along with Luthor Huss and the War of Vengeance novels, so have now moved onto Luthor to see what I’ve missed! Of course, it feels a bit daft, as the Empire is pretty much left in tatters at the end of this book, with some pretty major characters killed off or MIA. Currently, Luthor is one of the latter, so at least there’s the outside chance that we’ll see him again. But what on earth was all that stuff with Karl Franz? Jeez! Looks like this book might also have been the turning point in the End Times: while in book one we saw the great necromancer Nagash rise, presumably with evil intent, here we’ve seen the rise of “a new god” to possibly oppose this. Makes me wonder if the series will end with something like triumph, but I suppose we’ll have to wait and see.

At any rate, I really enjoyed this book, and cannot recommend it enough. Pretty much every GW store I’ve been to still has copies left over, so it shouldn’t be as hard as the Nagash novel to pick up, anyway!

End Times Glottkin

The two-book release for the Glottkin continues the standard of that for Nagash, though they do appear to be a little thinner than the first set. Hm. At any rate, beautiful artwork and amazingly painted miniatures accompany the story of the fall of Altdorf, laid out in a series of chapters that almost form set-piece battles in the first book, which are then given battleplans and rules in the second for you to recreate on the tabletop.

On the subject of Warhammer, remember my Tomb Stalker? That painfully intricate model that took me about two weeks to assemble and paint? Well, he fell off the bookcase last week, breaking the body in half, and snapping most of the legs off. So it was a pain in the ass but I managed to put him back together again, and I’m hoping that you can’t tell…

Necron Tomb Stalker

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Chickpea dahl

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I’ve decided to keep up the tradition of Big Game Saturdays leading up to xmas, so following on from Runebound last weekend, I had an epic game of A Touch of Evil, with the Something Wicked expansion thrown in. That proved to be a really awesome game, and really goes to reinforce just how much I enjoy that whole game line!

A Touch of Evil

Epic, and wonderful! I think next week I might give something like Eldritch Horror an outing, as I haven’t played that game since May…

Going back to Flying Frog, however, we had another Shadows of Brimstone update this week, which told us that the games are currently stuck in transit between Germany and the UK, but should hopefully be shipping out within the next week. I’m starting to lose faith in this, to be perfectly honest, as it’s been taking so long and stuff, but we’ll see what next week brings! I’m sure, when the game and all the additional kickstarter goodness is in my hands, this will all be a distant memory…

My other kickstarter nightmare, Fallen, seems to be going equally badly. It’s coming up to a year since the game was initially supposed to be shipped, of course, and the most recent update (which arrived this morning) puts it at four weeks before we should all have the game in our hands. That seems to be cutting it awfully close, to me, and I don’t actually expect to have it before xmas. Of course, I might be pleasantly surprised, but still.

These two experiences are really putting me off the kickstarter thing, anyway, and I’m thinking I might not actually bother with any more. But anyway, at least Lagoon was a breeze! I still want to try that game out…along with about a dozen others…

The grandfather

Morning everybody!
Today I’m going to make good on something I’ve been talking about, it seems, since my blog began. I’ve been looking at a lot of my favourite games over the course of this blog, a fair few of which are deck-building games. Almost par for the course, one game has been mentioned in those blogs that I have yet to get to – but no more! For today, I’m going to throw the spotlight of awesome onto Dominion.

Dominion

This is the original deck-building game – the game that has spawned so many since:
Street Fighter
Marvel Legendary
Thunderstone
DC Deck Building Game
– Ascension
Dark Gothic
Arcana
Rune Age

The list goes on and on. All of these would not have been possible without Dominion, which first saw the light of day in 2008. The game is gloriously simple – you are trying to score Victory Points, which you get through buying cards. In order to buy these cards, you’ll have to buy other cards. From your starting hand, you have to build your deck to gain the cards you need from an available pool. When either three stacks of cards in this pool have been run down, or when the highest-scoring Victory Point card stack has run down, the game is over and the player with the most VPs wins. It’s very straightforward, but it can also be very strategic, and a whole lot of fun!

Dominion

Dominion

You start the game with a basic hand of seven Copper cards and three Estate cards, so the lowest score you will ever have is 3 VPs. The strategy comes from the Kingdom cards, which are the ones that allow you to do stuff to manipulate the basic flow of the game. On your turn, you can buy one card, you can play one action card, then you have to discard any unplayed cards and draw a new hand. Action cards can allow you to do other stuff, however:

Dominion

Being able to set up chains like the above is something that I love about this game:
– You use your action to play Festival, which gives you 2 more actions, as well as allowing you to buy up to 2 cards, and gives you an extra 2 gold to use;
– You play Market, which gives you another action as well as another buy and another gold, plus allows you to draw another card (3 gold/2 buys/2 actions left);
– You then play Village, giving you 2 more actions and drawing another card (3 gold/2 buys/3 actions left);
– You then play Smithy, to draw 3 more cards (3 gold/2 buys/2 actions left);
– You then play Woodcutter, which gives you one more buy and two more gold (5 gold/3 buys/1 action left);
– Your final action is to play Workshop, which allows you to immediately gain any card from the Kingdom costing up to 4 gold (5 gold/3 buys left).

Depending what gold cards you drew in your initial hand (with this sequence, you could potentially have four additional cards in your hand with this action chain resolved), you have a lot of options now!

Dominion

The other “strategy” that seems to be popular is the Big Money idea of buying up Gold cards as soon as you can, and trashing your Coppers. The idea being that you can then have a better chance of buying Province after Province and getting a high score that way. I put the quotes there, however, because this seems like an extremely boring way of playing – aside from missing out on the depth that comes from the various action cards, it just seems really meh. The other thing to remember, of course, is that the VP cards don’t do anything for you in-game, so if you go on a buying spree like this, you run the risk of clogging up your hand with cards that you can’t do anything with.

Dominion also includes player interaction, with certain action cards being attack cards. One of these, the Witch, gives your opponents Curse cards that are worth negative VPs at the end – having a Moat can help to ward off these attacks, however.

Dominion

Player interaction isn’t really what Dominion is about in the core set, however, as you’re trying to build your own domain rather than hindering others from building theirs. Later expansions do build on this, however, with more attack cards coming. And luckily, there is a whole slew of expansions for this game!

Dominion

I’ll be taking a look at these in another blog. I was originally intending to include them all here, but each expansion introduces new mechanics that, taken together, would create something of a monster blog. However, I will mention the next box in the set, Dominion: Intrigue.

Dominion Intrigue

This is basically a second core set for the game. While the expansions focus on adding new Kingdom cards, Intrigue does this but includes all of the money and VP cards you need to provide a self-contained game. As with pretty much all of the Dominion line, the experience is very much a ‘more of the same’, however there are some differences. Intrigue introduces hybrid cards that provide VPs as well as in-game effects, as well as focusing on cards that present the player with a choice in how they are used.

Dominion

The last box I’ll look at here is the replacement basic cards.

Dominion

This box includes new art for the base cards used in the game, some of which is really very nice, I have to say! The base cards included here take in those from the entire line, so we also have stuff from Prosperity and Alchemy.

Dominion

When I first came across this, I was a bit confused as I thought it could potentially undermine the need for the base game – getting this box and one of the expansions would allow you to play the complete game. However, it’s not really cost-effective to do that, as the core box is cheaper than two combined boxes. But anyway.

Dominion is a subtle and elegant little game, with a lot to enjoy about it. While I tend to vacillate in my enjoyment of it, as I sometimes find the collection of victory points a little less than stimulating, I nevertheless appreciate it for what it is. If you’ve never played a deck-building game before, you should definitely try it. Even if you’ve played one of the other games mentioned at the beginning of this blog, you should still take a look at the grandfather of them all!

Buy it from amazon:
Dominion
Dominion: Intrigue
Dominion: Base Cards

Fantastic!

fantasy

Fantasy. How marvellous. I love a good fantasy story, which you may have picked up on if you’ve been reading this blog for any great length of time. It’s all about the escapism, the exercise of the imagination… with a good fantasy book, I can get lost for hours at a time.

I have vague memories of reading a book when I was still in school to do with a snow queen or a snow witch…something along those lines, anyway. Recently, though, it all started with Lord of the Rings of course. I’m not one of those people who grew up with Tolkien – I first came upon the book thanks to the hoopla of the Peter Jackson trilogy. A lot of people seem to disparage the movies – the purists, I suppose you could say – but I happen to think otherwise. I mean, they brought a whole new audience to the books, and seemed to really regenerate interest. Anyway.

Lord of the Rings is one of the archetypal fantasy epics, if not the archetype, with so much coming out nowadays almost entirely derivative of Tolkien’s work. However, I must admit to finding it a bit long-winded. Yes, it’s all about the journey, and yet it’s a fantastic storyline with compelling characters and epic situations, but the execution is a bit… periphrastic, if you will. The Hobbit, however, I did enjoy. Lots of fun, that one.

From Lord of the Rings, let’s take a look at another archetypal fantasy series: Dungeons and Dragons. First published in 1974 as the now-iconic role-playing game, a whole library of books have been published to support the line. One of those absolutely brilliant moments in publishing came in 1988, with the publication of The Crystal Shard, from the pen of RA Salvatore. A novel trilogy that was intended to showcase the barbarian hero Wulfgar, the result was unintended, but perhaps not unexpected – the meteoric rise of the drow ranger Drizzt Do’Urden. A dark elf from the Underdark, Drizzt is unique among his kind for having a conscience. The Icewind Dale trilogy spawned a whole industry of Drizzt material in subsequent years. That first threesome has a lot in common with Tolkien’s world, but Salvatore absolutely nails it with his prequel, the Dark Elf trilogy. These books are absolutely incredible, and I can highly recommend them!

From D&D, we head over to Warhammer, my obsession du jour! Another game setting, this time from 1983, Warhammer Fantasy is a mix of the usual tropes with a historical perspective that seems to be based on 17th-century Germany. Again, a whole library has sprung up to support the setting. For a game whose only objective is to eliminate your opponents, the novels that I’ve read so far have been really quite excellent! I’m currently reading through the latest novel in the End Times ongoing saga, which is one of these books I mentioned as being the sort that I can just lose myself in. In terms of providing background to the game beyond the army books, Warhammer novels have proven to be surprisingly awesome!

The third of the game tie-ins comes in the shape of Pathfinder. Published from 2009 as the bastard offspring of D&D, the Pathfinder setting has also spawned a whole series of novels under the Pathfinder Tales heading. I’ve not managed to make it to any of these novels yet, but have three in the collection, and will be posting about them when I get there!

Finally, we have A Song of Ice and Fire. Back in 1996, George RR Martin brought out his massive tome of a book that is, admittedly, more akin to historical fiction for the most part. But then we get dragons, and all sorts of stuff kicks off. While I’d dispute calling it “high” fantasy, fantasy it remains, so thought I’d mention it here. I do enjoy A Game of Thrones, however I have some issues with it. Don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with the “adult” nature of these books, but most of the time it is entirely gratuitous, and gives me the impression that such scenes are only there to “legitimize” the novels as being for adults – and to offset the dragons, perhaps.

It’s a good story, so far at least, with a lot of compelling characters and some excellent set pieces. It’s definitely worth looking into, and I feel it’s better than the TV show that’s still going on. But then, I suppose this is part of the reason why I like books so damn much, as they allow you to create the world in your head, rather than seeing just one person’s view of it.

At any rate, I’ll stop with my musings now. But get yourselves off to the bookstore, if you haven’t already, and check out some of these books today!