2014 in review

Hey everybody!
I, like many of you, had my “annual report” from the WordPress goblins this week, looking back at 2014 on my blog, but I was a little less than inspired by it, to tell the truth. While it’s interesting to see things like my most-commented-upon blog, of course, I think I’d rather share what I feel are my highlights of the year. Because I’m just contrary like that.

So! Here is a short list of my favourite ramblings out of the 189 missives that I’ve produced since starting this site back in April: enjoy!

My trip to Milan


The Assassin


The Tomb Stalker

Star Wars: Saga Edition

Lock S-foils in attack position!

My trip to Berlin

A selection of those blogs that I have particularly enjoyed writing over the course of this year for you all to enjoy.

It’s New Year’s Eve, so I hope you’ve all got exciting plans for next year buzzing around as you see out 2014! Whatever you’re up to this evening, have an excellent time, and stay safe!

See you on the other side!

Horror in the Mountains!

Hey folks!
I hope you’ve all been having an excellent festive season, whatever you’ve been up to!

I had two very exciting games, one of which I managed to get in a game with at the weekend – the Mountains of Madness expansion for Eldritch Horror, which I’d like to talk about today, as I share my experiences and first impressions.

Eldritch Horror

Basically, I love this expansion! Two new Ancient Ones, complete with associated decks of mysteries, research encounters and special encounters; eight new investigators, and a new side board with associated encounter cards. Along with a whole load of new encounter cards for the base game, and assets and spells and conditions and artifacts. You also get enough new Mythos cards to make up decks for each new Ancient One. Fabulous!

Eldritch Horror

The addition of the new board felt a lot like the new town expansions in Arkham Horror, though after a short while the similarity largely disappeared. For one thing, it’s much easier to travel between the boards.

Eldritch Horror

There are rules to govern the use of the expansion components, largely through the introduction of the Prelude cards.

Eldritch Horror

These cards are effectively ways to vary the setup, by allowing the investigators to buy upgrades at the expense of their sanity, for instance, or if you aren’t using the Rise of the Elder Things, you can still use the Antarctica board. I suppose this is what was meant back when this came out of GenCon:

But let’s get back to the goodies inside this box!

Eldritch Horror

Rise of the Elder Things is a fairly intense game, needing four mysteries solved to defeat. They also come out of the box with two special encounter decks, one of which is used if they awaken.

Eldritch Horror

The new Investigators are drawn from the Arkham stable, with most from Innsmouth Horror. A lot of them have abilities that work on the new Focus effect – as an action, an investigator can collect a yellow Focus token (shown earlier), which he can later use to re-roll one die; each investigator can only have a maximum of two focus tokens, however. A useful action, as previously investigators could only re-roll dice if they had specific assets, which usually only allow for re-rolls on specific tests.

Eldritch Horror

There are quite a few more interesting twists on the original mechanics, such as encountering clues on Antarctica, where you use a special encounter deck rather than the Ancient One’s research encounters.

Eldritch Horror

That was a nice little twist, though necessary given that none of the spaces on the new board is marked as a city/wilderness/sea. There’s also an Antarctica Adventure deck, which I’ve not yet used, but appears to work from using the side board without the Rise of the Elder Things. Will have to try that at some point.

Eldritch Horror

Unique Assets are an interesting idea as well, with many being the reward for new encounters around the board.

Eldritch Horror

Mainly Allies, these assets also introduce Tasks, which give you rewards on whether you complete them, which are virtually the same as Tasks/Missions that were introduced in Dunwich Horror. Indeed, Mountains of Madness continues the trend of taking elements of Arkham Horror and refining them in this way. However, while comparisons with the older game are perhaps inevitable, they are also unfair, as both games are perfectly enjoyable and awesome, without having to force a preference between them.

We also get four new spells, and new Conditions – including Hypothermia, which is a bit like the main Poisoned Condition in Forsaken Lore for providing the expansion theme.

Eldritch Horror

The second Ancient One is Ithaqua:

Eldritch Horror

August Derleth’s giant wendigo, Ithaqua is another of the Ancient Ones from the base game of Arkham Horror, I think he’s the second-easiest to fight against, by common convention. I have to admit, while Yig is definitely more deadly in his Eldritch Horror incarnation, Ithaqua is fairly tame, I felt – though of course, this could just have been down to the start aligning in my favour, as I did have some pretty good draws in my game against him at the weekend.

With his appearance in the game, only two more Ancient Ones are left from the base game of Arkham – Nyarlathotep and Hastur. While Mountains of Madness hasn’t even been out for a fortnight yet, like any rabid boardgamer, I’ve already found myself thinking what’s next for the game. If the model for one new Ancient One in a small box holds true for expansions, there’s a case to be made that either Nyarlathotep or Hastur could provide enough material for this – the former with his Masks and Mi-Go, the latter with the King in Yellow shenanigans. They could also throw an entirely new direction and give us Shudde M’ell and the Cthonians, or Glaaki, or any other of the Ancient Ones that have appeared in the mythos over the years.

And what of side-boards? Have we got more in store? If so, will they always work off an expedition space? It was remarked upon back when the game was first announced how Africa doesn’t have any named spaces, but two expedition spaces – will we be traversing the Heart of Africa? Nyarlathotep will almost certainly be in a Pyramids expansion, with the Dark Pharaoh as his Herald. Ah yes, what of heralds and guardians? Wonder if they’ll do an Eldritch Horror equivalent.

Forsaken Lore was announced about two months after Eldritch Horror was released, but that may not be repeated this time due to the nature of the beast. However, I’m fairly sure the next expansion will be a small box, and will most likely follow the Yig example. However, the next big box is something of a mystery. I’m not exactly desperate for another side-board expansion, and indeed, the way FFG refer to Mountains of Madness as “a side-board expansion for Eldritch Horror” has me wondering if there will be another type of expansion. We could perhaps have a big box that introduces heralds and guardians – maybe even institutions? – and provides more cards for the Ancient Ones and the locations, a sort of Miskatonic Horror with a twist.

Whatever follows Mountains of Madness, I’m looking forward to it with abandon – and I’m sure it’ll be awesome!

Eldritch Horror

Buy it from amazon:
Eldritch Horror: Mountains of Madness

Shield of Baal

The deadly worlds of the Cryptus System, always beset by the gravitational and radioactive forces of their twin stars, have come under a new threat – the xenos might of the tyranids. A tendril of Hive Fleet Leviathan has reached the Cryptus shieldworlds. The Imperium musters its strength, for the aliens must be stopped here, as next in the hive fleet’s path is the home world of the Blood Angels Space Marines, Baal itself.

Shield of Baal

That’s right, folks – time for a review of the Shield of Baal series of novellas and e-books from Black Library! These stories support the recent Shield of Baal campaign from Games Workshop that has helped to publicize the recent releases of Tyranid and Blood Angel models, which culminated in the Deathstorm box set. I don’t play Warhammer 40k, of course, but I do enjoy the setting, and part of that enjoyment has come from this series!


Shield of Baal

Shield of Baal began back in November, with the publication of the campaign supplement Leviathan. Selling out within the first hour of being available for pre-order, it was either this or the Khaine supplement for Warhammer Fantasy’s End Times series that appears to have prompted GW into re-releasing these things in paperback. Anyhow, Leviathan was the first of two hardback supplements, the other being Exterminatus, both of which framed the box set release itself.

Shield of Baal

These books have some absolutely gorgeous art – for more on that, check out my tumblr posts here and here! The slipcase for each features two books, of course – the fluff and the crunch. The latter provides all of the rules for the models, including those for the new Tyranid releases that began in October/November. Anyhow!

Shield of Baal

These three novellas form what I suppose is the overarching storyline of the campaign, and function very much like the End Times novels we’ve been seeing in Fantasy. The fluff books in the campaign supplement releases can be seen as the history books of the time, so we see virtually everything that occurred, while the novels/novellas dramatise the story much like a historical film might present the events.

here be spoilers!

So we start with Tempestus. This story features the Adepta Sororitas fighting a heresy on the world of Lysios, before the arrival of an Imperial Inquisitor and his Tempestus Scions, on the trail of a new xenos threat. It’s a really nicely-crafted story, particularly interesting (to me) for featuring the Sisters of Battle so prominently – the fan community seems to bang on about these girls like they’re the most short-changed of all the factions, so it was interesting to see what they’re all about. The leader of them, Canoness Magda Grace, is a particularly compelling character, though unfortunately the story largely hinges around Inquisitor Ulrich, who annoyed me very early on for his attitude of career-advancement-at-all-costs. The story ends with Ulrich abandoning the Sisters and the Scions on the planet, just as the Tyranids begin their invasion, though whether he actually gets away is another question entirely…

The next short story is a bit longer, and coincides with the box set itself. Deathstorm begins as the Tyranid invasion is getting under way, and introduces the Blood Angels First Company, under the command of Captain Karlaen – the Shield of Baal himself. Karlaen is tasked with retrieving the Governor of Phodia, whose bloodline might hold the key to curing the Blood Angel’s Red Thirst. The story follows Karlaen and his men as they follow the trail of the governor, who holed himself up in a private bunker shortly after the Tyranids arrived. I enjoyed this one immensely! I was particularly impressed by the way Reynolds writes the Brood Lord as a point-of-view character, given the fact my previous encounters with 40k novels have had the xenos just as the antagonists. The twist at the end is also amazing, and actually really well-written (I think!) The other thing I really liked was the way all of the major players in the meat of the story (excepting the governor) are models from the Deathstorm box set – for me, this just goes to show the power of thematic, scenario play, where you can take a collection of models and spin an entertaining story out of them!

Shield of Baal

From there, we then have a couple of e-books, starting with Wraithflight. This brings the Eldar into the storyline, though quite gratuitously, in my opinion. Nothing seems to be added to the overall tale, it’s very much a sideline to the main event. If you’re an Eldar fan, it might be worth downloading – it also follows on from a previous novel, so you might like to read it if you’ve read Valedor, also. But to me, it didn’t really contribute anything.

The Word of the Silent King was a big thing for me, however! It was released for download a couple of days after the Exterminatus previews went online, where we finally had confirmation that the Necrons would be coming into the campaign, so it was an insta-download for me! While I was naturally predisposed to be favourable to it, nevertheless I thought it was a nice story, considering the e-books feel almost like filler than the main thing. It details the alliance between the Necrons and Blood Angels against the Tyranid threat, and is told from both sides, through one of the space marines and one of the Praetorian Guard. It feels quite important, as the story features both Commander Dante and Szerakh themselves, and the general sense from the story is that this is setting up the endgame for the campaign. Which brings us to…

The third and final novella (it seems), Devourer was released with Exterminatus, and was just far too exciting for my Necron-love, as it has Anrakyr the Traveller on the cover! Oh yes, this one promised to be excellent! Unfortunately, that promise didn’t quite hold true, in the end. Anrakyr is trying to awaken a tomb world amid the Tyranid invasion, without realising the world is already awakening. We follow the reactivation through the eyes of a Cryptek and her Lychguard, as she discovers the Flayer virus has crippled the Lords and Overlords – and the Phaeron herself! Unfortunately, the Tyranids prove to be too much, and Anrakyr is forced to flee the world, no great loss when he realises the extent of the virus.

I really wanted to like this story, given how the Necrons are centre-stage for it, but it sadly fell a bit flat for me. I really don’t mean to sound sexist when I say this, but I was surprised at how many female Necrons there are – I’d always just thought they were beyond such things as gender-recognition post-transformation, and all. The fact that we get inside Necron heads also seemed to destroy the mystique a little too much for me – ironic, given the fact that I’ve wanted to read a story with them for so long! However, my main issue is the fact that the story just doesn’t seem to go anywhere, and has such an inconclusive ending. Not to be too harsh, but the actual storyline is one I think that should be more suited to an e-book – Anrakyr tries to wake a tomb world, and finds them all infected with the Flayer virus, so flees the surface for the next one. The novella would be better-served with more of a conclusive ending, when he finds a tomb world and it’s all set and ready to smash the Tyranids!

There’s a side-story of Blood Angels guarding the dead planet Perdita, but following a Tyranid sortie they crash on the surface and have to fight their way through the caverns, latterly with the assistance of the Necrons. I feel that the story in Devourer is setting up something else, though as it’s (ostensibly) the last in the series, it appears to go nowhere… However, it’s not all bad – what we do get is a nice look into the reactivation of a tomb world, some excellent scenes that sent a little shiver of goodness over me as I read descriptions of my favourite army, including the Tomb Sentinel of all things! And there are some pretty awesome set-piece battle sequences to enjoy!

There is a third e-book worth downloading, called Shadow of the Leviathan, which features the Ultramarines in a different sector of space. The story centres around the Chief Librarian Tigurius and his struggles with a new psyker Tyranid monstrosity – never identified by name in-story, it’s not difficult to see it as the new Maleceptor model that was part of the wave of releases in November. It’s actually a nice little story, and definitely worth checking out if you’ve enjoyed any of the other tales in the Shield of Baal series!

Shield of Baal

Final Thoughts

These stories are lots of fun, for a variety of reasons, with Deathstorm by far being the best of the lot. There are some excellent battle descriptions, possibly my absolute favourite being Tigurius’ aristeia in Shadow of the Leviathan. And, of course, it’s always fun to have stories where you can imagine the goings-on through models on the tabletop!

Being a campaign supplement for the wargame, I suppose there is necessarily an open-ended feel, as people will be playing through these scenarios, and the Tyranids might win there. However, part of me wishes that a canon-ending could have been adopted, much like in the Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic games, where you could play it where you end up a Sith Lord, but the actual story is supposed to see the Jedi triumph. Perhaps GW don’t want to see the Tyranids defeated, of course, but throughout the series I feel we’re led to believe that the Space Marines will triumph.

The Necron thing is still a disappointment, of course. A large part of me still hopes we’ll see a fourth novella in the new year, once we have the new Zarathusa the Ineffable miniature available. Indeed, there is an oblique reference to this chap in Devourer, and I did feel a little cheated when nothing came of it! Time will tell on that, I suppose. There is also the fluff from both campaign supplements that can be read through – as this is intended as a review of the novellas only, I haven’t yet made my way through the bigger books; once I do, I’ll come back and add a post-script or something.

Before I close, I can’t help but mention the pricing. Tempestus and Devourer are £12, with Deathstorm £15. These are short books – less than 130pp for the first and third, and 175pp for the middle one. For £20, Black Library have published full novels of 400+pp, so it does feel like a terrible money-grab. It might be more worthwhile downloading them as e-books for £5, but I’m one of these people who prefers a proper book in my hand to anything else. It’s obviously my choice to have the tangible hardback, but it seems a little excessive markup there…

I don’t want to end on a low point, though – this campaign is really enjoyable, and worthwhile reading through for anyone who is interested in the setting. The three novellas take various facets of the 40k universe and showcase them to good effect – Blood Angels, Adepta Sororitas, Necrons, Tempestus Scions, etc.

Shield of Baal

The Devil Strikes!

Hey everyone!
Happy Boxing Day, to all those who partake of the season!

Following on from my earlier blog, Flying Frog have put up a new web villain for A Touch of Evil – Krampus, the Holiday Devil! From German folklore, Krampus is the demon that punishes naughty children at Christmas. How wonderful!

The first new content for this game in just over two years, I’m going to try this chap out shortly – have an awesome day!

Download it now:
Krampus, the Holiday Devil
Cover Page (incl FAQ)
Basic Minion Chart
Advanced Minion Chart

Get cracking!

Hey everyone!
The big day is almost here, so I want to share with you one of my all-time favourite Christmas games – it’s a small web expansion for that old favourite, A Touch of Evil: it’s the Volgovian Nutcracker!

Volgovian Nutcracker

Ah, Christmas! It’s a time of fun and frivolity, lively laughter, good spirits – and evil nutcrackers. Of course it is! Tchaikovsky couldn’t have been further from the truth. When Christmas comes to Shadowbrook, only bad stuff entails…

I thought I’d share some rambling musings on this, my favourite of the pdf villains for A Touch of Evil (and, incidentally, my second-favourite villain of the entire game series so far), so that you can curl up with a cup of chocolate in the twinkling light of the tree and be terrified beyond your wildest dreams. Because there are evil nutcrackers out there…

Yes, my favourite of the web exclusives. FFP deserves so much credit for doing this. When game companies are willing to give you free stuff, it’s always good, but when said company is willing to give you free stuff that is just as good – if not better – than the product that has a price tag, I feel a massive rush of affection for them that usually leads to me spending more money on them. While I appreciate that FFP are of course widening their base with more games and supporting those, not to mention the resources that must go into these things, I still have all of my extremities crossed that there will be more pdfs appearing in due course.

But for now, I’ll uncross some of them to continue with this blog…

Volgovian Nutcracker

The Volgovian Nutcracker is like nothing we’ve seen before, entirely unique, with his own unique minions and mechanics. The first thing that I noticed when glancing through his sheets is that he never actually attacks you, until you get to the Showdown. Whereas you would expect the D6 roll of a 6 on the minion chart to be a villain attack event, instead there is a really nice effect that I’ll describe shortly. While it’s still possible to encounter the Nutcracker himself through Deadly Encounters, you otherwise won’t see the little wooden guy until the end.

There is something quite whimsical about this villain that has such undercurrents of darkness that it strongly reminds me of the circus folks in Batman Returns. The villain himself is a nutcracker, after all, and his minions are toys! Where’s the harm?! Well, have you seen how sinister those Stuffed Bears look?! The Christmas cheer is there, but it has such a wonderfully dangerous edge that it is the perfect marrying of theme in this game. (I’ll come back to this point later.)

First off, then, let’s have a look at the Basic Game. With Toy Soldiers and Toy Cannons, the Nutcracker seeks to strike. These Toy Soldiers have the nasty ability of being able to repair themselves at the end of each fight round on the roll of 4+, which makes them just that extra bit annoying. The Toy Cannons also do double damage on rolls of 6, so even though they’re only rolling 2 fight dice, they have the potential to knock you out in one round. The event that replaces the usual Villain Attack is called “Holiday Ball”, where you roll a die and consult a chart. Rolls of 2-5 are benign, in fact they’re quite helpful; roll a 6 and you might be getting some investigation, but you’re also spawning some Toy Soldiers. Rolls of 1 move the Shadow Track. The Nutcracker himself, sporting a 5 combat rating and 6 wounds, has a wonderful ability called ‘Crushing Bite’ where his rolls of 6 force you to discard an item or ally, or take an additional hit. Those powerful jaws, capable of crushing through the hardest of shells, or the closest of bonds between hero and ally…

Volgovian Nutcracker

But as usual, it’s the Advanced Game that I’m more interested in.

To start with, the Advanced Game adds two more movable bits to the game experience – the aforementioned creepy Stuffed Bears, and the delightfully whimsical Christmas Caravan – more on the latter in a minute! First of all, all these toys become a lot more deadly. The Soldiers still heal, but they also inch closer to the nearest hero at the beginning of the Mystery phase. The Cannons – well, watch out if they’re in any named space! If they’re at a corner location, they bombard that location’s deck, discarding D6 cards from the pile until there’s nothing left. If they run it down, that location is considered to be destroyed and it is treated like an unstable location instead, much like the Sunken mechanic did in Something Wicked, released a few months before the pdf went up. If the Cannons are left in Town spaces, they discard a random Town Item and move the Shadow Track each Mystery Phase. Combined with The Hour is Late, that can be a killer!

Ever thought Stuffed Bears were cute and cuddly? Well, think again! These little horrors are as dangerous as the Vampire’s Wolves, or the Werewolf’s Feral Kin, hitting on 4, 5 or 6! The good thing is they can only take two wounds. The Holiday Ball event is now transformed into something that I really like, too. If rolled, the heroes with a Party Invitation Event card move immediately to the Manor and gain D6 investigation – very handy! You then roll a die for each living Town Elder, the roll compared to each of their three attributes, triggering a different effect for whichever it matches. So, if it equals the Elder’s Honor, that Elder gains a Resolve Token (from the Something Wicked expansion – if you aren’t using this (gasp!), you can use this effect to remove a Mystery card that remains in play on the roll of 5 or 6); if it equals their Spirit, they gain a Secret card, and if it matches their Cunning you can place 2 Investigation at The Manor.

The Christmas Caravan also flits around the board, dropping investigation tokens wherever it goes, which can be very handy. The Caravan also takes on the little chart that the Basic Game used for the Holiday Ball event, so that if a hero encounters the Caravan during the course of the game he will roll on this chart to see what happens. There are some minor changes – rolls of 1 draw a Mystery Card instead of moving the Shadow Track, and you’ll place 2 Toy Soldier minions on the roll of a 6, but in essence it’s the same. Heroes encountering the Caravan can also buy Town Items here.

Collecting investigation from the board is made so much more difficult now, however, due to the Exploding Gifts ability. Yes, any tokens dropped by the Caravan, or otherwise placed through card effects, aren’t just clues lying around to be discovered to aid the heroes, but exploding presents from the Soulless Nutcracker! Muwahahaha! Heroes must pass the Cunning 5+ test to pick these tokens up, or else they blow up in your face and are removed from the board, leaving you with D3 wounds. Ouch!

The Nutcracker has a simply excellent ability that works off the “Murder!” Mystery card, too. ‘Tis the Season…for Murder! makes you roll a die and, on the roll of 4+, you place a Stuffed Bear minion at the same location as the 3 investigation. If you roll a 1, the Town Elder with the lowest Cunning is killed. The Villain’s rules sheet just cracks me up on this point, though – the Elder is considered to be “the victim of a deadly present”! I just love it! Those sinister Stuffed Bears have a lot to answer for…

Another really great, atmospheric ability the Nutcracker has is Winter Snowfall. When rolling for Lingering, you roll 2 dice and take the lower result. The effect is considered to be a permanent Weather card, any other such cards are merely discarded, which forces the Shadow Track to move one more inexorable step towards darkness. So if you’ve got Cannons in the Town, and haven’t yet managed to shift The Hour is Late, you’re in real trouble! Especially so, because the Nutcracker has yet another ability that kicks off from the Shadow Track crossing through stages closer to darkness. Assault of Darkness will place a random minion at 2 Random Locations whenever the Track moves into a new stage closer to darkness.

The Nutcracker also has some new keywords that work off existing cards from the core set, as well as not being forgotten by further expansions. So Magistrate Kroft will be able to lend his +2 fight dice ability against this demonic Construct, as will Sara the Bright Witch. However, the devious Nutcracker will have +1 Combat against you unless your Cunning is 4 or higher, so get ye to the Magistrate’s Office!

Volgovian Nutcracker

I just love this guy! he is definitely not the sort of Nutcracker that would transport you to a magical kingdom of sweets and sugarplum fairies, but instead will crush you betwixt his evil jaws and transport you to hell! The whimsy of fighting against toys like some demented child’s nightmare aside, I think the whole package is highly atmospheric and, through all of these little rules twists, creates an almost-entirely new game, moreso perhaps than any other villain. I also feel that, more than the other two web villains, his abilities feed off the Mystery card deck really very neatly, particularly with moving the Shadow Track. In a very unlucky game, you may only have as many as four rounds before you lose!

I cannot gush enough at just how much work must have gone into this creation. The other two web villains have always re-used previously-released content in their own way, but the Nutcracker has his own unique minions, to say nothing of the Christmas Caravan that is roaming the town dropping off sinister gifts. However, this does pose its own problem. If, like me, you don’t have access to the kind of thick cardstock that the regular FFP stuff is printed on, the Nutcracker experience does become a little fiddly, as minion counters are slid with care across Shadowbrook because of the card available. There is also the issue of how the minions are printed, the intention being that the six Cannons and the six Bears have Soldiers on the reverse. It isn’t exactly difficult to arrange the game so that, when you place a Cannon or a Bear, you remove a Soldier from play until that minion is defeated, but it can become a little bit fiddly. I’m not so craftsy that I can overcome this with ease (heck, I can’t even operate a laminator consistently!) However, these are less than minor quibbles – I’m just thrilled to have more content for the game that I love so much!

The Christmas Caravan is also a really great addition. All its abilities aside, I really like the fact that it doesn’t automatically move every turn, but only on the roll of 4+, so if you want to encounter it but find yourself on the other side of the board, you have a chance at least of getting there. It does tend to be tweaked when I play, though, so that you can’t buy Town Items there. I feel that, had this villain been released as part of a more mainstream expansion (Sinister Celebrations, perhaps, where we see a daemonic Thanksgiving Turkey, or somesuch?) the Christmas Caravan should have had its own deck of cards that you could buy from when you encounter it – candy canes that allow you to discard for +1 fight dice, as you jab them into the eyes of the Stuffed Bears, perhaps? Wrapping paper that you can discard to automatically defeat a Toy enemy, as you wrap it up. Or a massive walnut, which allows you to go first in the Showdown because you jam the jaws of the Nutcracker? Well, maybe that would be a step too whimsy. Anyway, I’m fine with encountering the Caravan and rolling on its little chart before it trots along to its next location, leaving those exploding gifts in its wake. I just feel that it’s a little bit weird that you can buy these items in town as well as out on the Crossroads. The town is the haven of the game, where you can go for good stuff and stuff that can help you – if the Caravan really has brought ‘a host of dark secrets and despair’, it’s enough for me that it drops investigation in its wake.

I said before that he was my second-favourite villain to play against, and the only thing keeping him from the top spot is the fact that I find him so Christmas-themed that it seems almost perverse to play against him at any other time of year. If you haven’t tried this villain yet, what the devil are you waiting for?!

Download it now!
Villain sheet
Minion Chart – Basic Game
Minion Chart – Advanced Game
Minion Counters

I originally wrote this article on boardgamegeek

Poised on the brink!

Afternoon everyone!
The festive season is nearly upon us! I have this week off work, fortunately, which marks I think the second time in my 11-year career that I’ve managed to book time off beforehand. I was hoping to use it to catch up with everything that has been going on, but as it happens, so far I don’t really seem to have gotten anywhere!

To start with, I’ve just now caught up with my degree work. Been hard-going, last week, studying the funeral oration of Pericles from Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War. Yes, it was just as good as it sounds. Interesting, don’t get me wrong, and some of the historiography of the speech was really good to learn, but heavy going, I must say. Which is probably why I abandoned it halfway through the week, and have only today finished up! Up next is Aristophanes’ Lysistrata, which is a play I’ve read a few times over the years. Aristophanes and I go way back, anyway, so I’m hoping that’ll be much easier to get through. For now, though, I’m supposedly on the Christmas break, so I’m intending to use my time to read up some of the background on the Peloponnesian War, having had the Donald Kagan book for years but never having gotten round to it…


I’ve finally finished building up the miniatures from the Shadows of Brimstone box set City of the Ancients, after about three weeks of vacillating over the whole thing. I’ve got to admit, they aren’t exactly fantastic sculpts, and they go together really badly – the trio of Night Terrors all have really bad joins along the arms, but that’s the best I could get them to fit. I’m not sure if I want to paint them, as the level of detail is nowhere near as good as Citadel plastic, and my one attempt at painting a board game piece isn’t exactly fabulous, but I’m faced with the option of having these models, or trying to make them look better by painting. I’ll see how it goes with the other projects I have on the go first, I suppose…

…because I’ve got a lot of painting projects that need to be dealt with – a Triarch Stalker, a Catacomb Command Barge, ten Immortals in varying stages of completion, three Crypteks the same, and a second Vargard Obyron (the first being an absolutely appalling finecast). While I have been slowly bringing the Immortals to completion, the only thing I’ve actually managed to do is complete the third of my Scarab Bases – voilà!

In an effort to try to be more proactive with my painting, I’ve been spending a lot of time online looking at various options and such, all in the name of inspiration (or, more accurately, procrastination). There’s a decent enough tumblr I can recommend, allthingswarhammer, which seems to scour instagram for anything that is tagged as warhammer, but along with relevant stuff, there can be some pretty weird posts on there! Tumblr is still one of my favourite things, anyway – you can follow me (if you like!) here, anyway!

However, you don’t need to go to tumblr for inspiration goodness! Roemer’s Workshop right here on WordPress is another excellent blog that I really like – not least because reading posts like this help to put my own addiction into perspective!

Necron Immortals

The second batch of Immortals (above) are coming on, too. I’ve tried to stick with the same colour scheme as for the first lot I painted, though changing the colour of the ‘warpaint’ on their faces, this time going for Zandri Dust. Once the bases are done, they’re pretty much ready if I’m honest, and I’ll be in the position where I have the minimum troops required to play the tabletop game! I’m guessing, though, that I won’t really have the time to do that before we’re well into January, by which time the Necron Codex is expected to hit. So it’s timed quite well, all told!


Bravo to all of you who have realised that my writing this blog is just another way I’ve been procrastinating, anyway!


Hey folks, welcome to game day!
I was intending to have a truly mammoth blog ready for today, as a sort of Christmas-special game day blog or something, but real life has intruded and I’ve not been able to write anything up. So that’s been pushed up to the beginning of next year now, and instead I’m going to share some thoughts with you on a game expansion I tried out for the first time yesterday – the Crisis Expansion to DC Deck Building Game!

DC Crisis

Yes, it was only last week that I took you all through the main game, but what the hell. The Crisis Expansion Pack is the first proper expansion this game has seen, introducing some new heroes, new main deck cards, and two new modes of play. Pretty impressive, really! As I only played this for the first time yesterday, this will be more of a first thoughts style blog than anything else, at any rate.

So first, we have new superheroes – six of them, in fact:

DC Crisis

There are some really interesting abilities on these superheroes, four of which have been in the base set as Hero cards, the other two being supported with the new main deck cards:

DC Crisis

I didn’t use any of these when I played with the game, but it looks like there are a few interesting twists being added to the game here, nonetheless!

The first of the two new modes of play is Impossible Mode, which replaces the base game’s Super Villain deck with much tougher variants:

DC Crisis

You can see in the comparison above that the new super villains (the bottom four) are slightly more difficult to beat, but some of them also have more difficult first appearance-attacks, and grant better bonuses once you’ve defeated them.

The second, and to me, much more interesting new mode is Crisis Mode – more interesting, because you can now play DC solo! Crisis Mode is probably the bulk of this box, as you use the Super-Villains and the main deck cards, along with new Super Hero cards, and a new Crisis deck:

DC Crisis DC Crisis

The new mode of play is co-operative, and involves a few rules-changes, but these new Super Heroes support that by having benefits to your team-mates such as drawing extra cards, stacking your deck, etc. It also does away with the Victory Point conditions, and you win if you defeat 12 Super Villains, but lose if the main deck runs out. With the main deck therefore acting like a timer, there are twists added, such as adding the top of the main deck to the game at the start of your turn, but also the new Super Villains and, particularly, the Crisis cards add more cards from the main deck, trying to defeat you that way.

DC Crisis

These new cards are essentially the opposition here. They act almost as gate-keepers to the Super-Villains, as you need to defeat the Crisis card before you can attempt to defeat them. One of these cards in particular, Dimension Shift, can only be beaten if you reveal a card with cost of exactly 2 from the top of your deck. When I played this game yesterday, I was playing as Martian Manhunter, whose effect allows you to place a hero on top of your deck from your discard pile if you played two or more heroes that turn. You’d think it would be fairly straightforward to beat this card, therefore, given the number of heroes that cost 2, but no! It caused me to cycle through my deck repeatedly over about 45 minutes while I tried to get past it! Bah!

DC Crisis

For me, Crisis mode is awesome. Even setting aside the fact that it allows for solo play (always a winner with me, remember!), it adds an extra layer to the game that elevates it from being “just another deck-builder”. In fact, I would go so far as to say it begins to approach Marvel Legendary as an awesome game experience. See, while I do like deck-building games, they can tend to be very much of a muchness, and I usually like to have a good break between playing games with them as a result. However, when the deck-building aspect is suitably masked behind deeper mechanics, such as with Marvel or Arcana, then you focus more on a game experience and less on the purely nuts-and-bolts “I have this much currency in my hand, so can afford this card, which I place in my discard pile before doing it all over again”. It’s pretty exciting to note, of course, that this is explicitly Crisis Pack 1, so I’m hoping we see further packs that expand on the number of Crisis cards available, increasing the options for this mode of play!

It’s all about the levels, people!

Buy it from amazon:
Crisis Expansion Pack 1

A jaunt in the mountains

At the Mountains of Madness is a 1931 novella from the eldritch pen of HP Lovecraft. I’m a huge Lovecraft fan, as you may be aware, and like to read at least one of his short stories over the festive period. Last year, it was finally the turn of the epic Mountains of Madness! This is the third-longest of Lovecraft’s stories, and the longest one that I have so far read, so to some extent I had been putting it off accordingly. 

It’s the tale of an academic expedition to Antarctica, led by Dr William Dyer of Miskatonic University, following up on a previous expedition that discovered a collection of ruins beyond a range of impossibly high mountains…

Mountains of Madness

There’s a really great atmosphere for the most part of this story, though it does unfortunately seem to flounder a little about two-thirds of the way through. An advance party under Professor Lake discovers some frozen specimens of creatures that pre-date humanity, some in perfect preservation and some damaged. The advance party then goes missing, so Dyer and the others look for them and find their camp abandoned, with those perfectly=preserved specimens now missing. Searching for the specimens, the first team discover the city and then spend a massive chunk of the narrative making copies of the wall carvings they find there. 

Evidently, the city is the home to some particularly foul beings they call Elder Things, and the scientists delve deeply into the city, where they find dead specimens, giant albino penguins, and are eventually chased through the chasms by a Shoggoth.

Mountains of Madness

The tale is a bit like a classic disaster movie, with that impending air of doom hanging over from almost the get-go – except for that damn sluggish segment where they take notes! I mean, they know something is up from the missing research team and the escaped specimens, yet they take their time in the caverns taking notes! It just felt a bit… stalled…

However, it’s possibly the seminal Lovecraftian work – after Call of Cthulhu, I suppose – and you can’t really pass over reading it at least once. Though, obviously, I’ve now spoilt the ending for you. But you should still give it a try –

The publication history is also quite intriguing, it being rejected by Weird Tales in 1931 and not being published until a serialized version in Astounding Stories in 1935 – a version heavily edited, much to Lovecraft’s annoyance. It’s a shame, in a way, as the generally negative reception at the time seemed to affect him deeply, and he said it put an end to his writing career. That said, he did still go on to publish some classics, including The Haunter of the Dark, The Shadow Out of Time, and The Shadow Over Innsmouth, although the latter was also abused in its initial publication… but that’s a story for another day.

It’s definitely worth a read, for the disaster-movie feel, and the fact that it looms so large in the mythos.