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…

100_9928

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.

100_9933 100_9934 100_9936 100_9941 100_9942 100_9945 100_9950

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

100_9955 100_9959 100_9968 100_9976

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!