Runebound 3!

Wow!

Pretty much every year, something at GenCon will blow me away, and when it does, it’s FFG’s doing. Looks like 2015 is no different, as we have the 3rd edition of Runebound announced!

Very excited for this, despite the fact I own (and love) everything for 2nd edition.

Runebound 3rd Edition

Third edition looks very sexy, as befits a modern update I suppose, but the preview article hints at a lot of changes that seem kinda interesting. First off, encounters are divided into three types – combat, social or exploration – with the adventure gems colour-coded as such. At first I was a bit confused – colour-coding in 2nd edition marked the encounter difficulty, not type, after all – but the scaling is done through a scenario adventure deck, which leads up to a fight with the big baddie of whichever scenario you’re playing. The two in the box have tickled me in all the right places – fighting against High Lord Margath, or the evil necromancer, Vorakesh! Two classic Terrinoth names, they’ve made me feel right at home with this new edition already!

Combat seems a bit strange, with tokens you can apparently cast like dice or flip like coins. Either way, they’ll likely become worn out very quickly, even given FFG’s top-quality product. Combat with d10s seems so much easier, but the fact that surges have now made it into this game is a nice touch to bring it closer to Descent.

Speaking of Descent, that seems to be where the new heroes are coming from, too. Hopefully we’ll get some kind of conversion kit to use the older, classic heroes – especially now that they have better sculpts thanks to the Hero & Monster collections for Descent, as well!

Runebound 3rd Edition

Overall, I’m really excited for this. Nothing is going to make me part with 2nd edition, as it’s an all-time favourite of mine, but I think a new edition will be a nice change to complement the older game. At any rate, this is right on my Christmas list!

Gen Con 2015!

Gen Con 2015 has begun! While it’s still early hours for the best four days in gaming, the tweets have already started!

Announced just last week, Fury of Dracula is coming in the fourth quarter in a new edition.

Kingdom Death was a kickstarter from years back with beautiful minis, but never seemed to get anywhere and, while I hadn’t backed it, I still kinda lost interest. Finally on its way? That’ll make for some very happy backers!

If you’ve been following this on Geek & Sundry, you’ll know it’s a pretty amazing series so far!

Update: Fantasy Flight in-flight report:

Still not really all that interested in this one, I have to say. I have the first edition LCG stuff that I’m pretty happy with, and will no doubt play with for a long time to come, so it’s a bit unnecessary for me at this point. But I’m sure others will enjoy it – if this selling-out is anything to go by!

New for Descent: Mists of Bilehall! Sounds gross, but more Descent is good!

More for Eldritch Horror – this looks amazing! Mountains of Madness was one of my most-exciting games from last year at Gen Con, and it looks like FFG are doing it again now!

Well this is interesting – “as big as the original game”??? Good grief, I need to find Imperial Assault players, and fast!

X-Wing Imperial Assault Carrier

The first of the new X-Wing announcements, and a second big ship for the Imperials. Interesting – though I can’t help feeling they’re scraping the barrel a little with what they can provide. We’ll see how it pans out in the official previews and whatnot, anyway.

X-Wing Wave 8

Wave 8 is here, and Wave 7 isn’t even out (properly) yet! Looks to be following a similar pattern as well, with help for the Scum faction while still supporting the older two. Punishing One looks fun, though, and kinda ties in with the Dengar villain pack shown in the Imperial Assault pic…

Warhammer Quest

Well, THIS looks like fun! I was hoping FFG hasn’t seen the last of Warhammer Fantasy, and lo! We get something that looks unutterably amazing! I never played the original board game, but am extremely excited to get my hands on a card game set in the Old World once more!

Runebound 3rd Edition

So it looks like this is the big reveal of Gen Con 2015! Runebound 3rd edition is something I’ve long thought was a dead-in-the-water idea, but the guys at FFG have proven me wrong, and with style, no less! Very interested in what this will play like when I get my hands on it.

…because I will be getting it, you can guarantee that! Check out the official preview over on their website, then join me in waiting with mounting anticipating for the Christmas release!

So it looks like this will be launching with a bang. In fact, I’m kinda dreading this Christmas, if Runebound/Eldritch Horror/Imperial Assault expansions are due out, and then whatever FFG have got cooking to tie into The Force Awakens! My guess is some sort of X-Wing-like game. I don’t think they’ll have mere expansions for the existing game, though they might be cross-compatible. But given they’ve said X-Wing has been their most successful game ever, it’d follow they’d try to emulate that, but perhaps with a new flavour for the new movie. I’m guessing we won’t really see anything spoiled before release, as is their usual MO, however…

And finally – the new quest for Lord of the Rings!! Looks like they won’t be continuing the theme from last year, by providing a tie-in Saga quest, but still sounds cool enough:

So there you have it – some really excellent reasons to be excited for board games for yet another year from FFG. Also reasons why you should probably look at selling organs now…

Still looking forward to Ghostbusters arriving in October (fingers crossed!) Haven’t really been seeing much come out of Cryptozoic that I feel a desperate urge to own, however. I was hoping we might see some more news on the Cerberus games – maybe a Street Fighter expansion, finally? But nothing – yet!

Haven’t seen anything from Flying Frog Productions yet, though they were late to the e-party last year as I recall. However, this has popped up on boardgamegeek – I hope it’s not a dreaded promo card for Dark Gothic! There’s also some cool new info on further Shadows of Brimstone goodness that we can hopefully expect not too far down the line.

And finally (for now) – take a look at this. Warhammer Age of Sigmar is being displayed! Games Workshop outreach to the community at last! Can’t really see anything new (new terrain that goes on pre-order tomorrow, but nothing big enough to discern otherwise), but it’s still good to see the company take part in such a big gaming event!

Update: Two Days In

More Shadows of Brimstone previews #gencon2015 #shadowsofbrimstone #flyingfrogproductions

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New Shadows of Brimstone models available for a special Gen con preview #gencon2015 #shadowsofbrimstone #flyingfrogproductions

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Shadows of Brimstone #GenCon2015

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From bad… to worse. Playing Shadows of Brimstone demo. #gencon2015 #tentacles #goodgames

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Some more pictures of Shadows of Brimstone stuff have been trickling through the internets, and while I’m still a bit bummed by the miniatures quality, in a weird way I’m glad that it’ll all fit with the base games. They’ve released two new monster groups at GenCon, Hell Vermin Rats, and Swamp Slugs of Jargono. A lot of people seem annoyed that they’ve been working on non-kickstarter stuff, but I’m pretty ambivalent at the minute, as I didn’t get on the Wave 1.5 train so I’m just patiently waiting for one mahoosive delivery of stuff at some undetermined future date!

Descent Mists of Bilehall

Official FFG updates on a Saturday are the cornerstone of GenCon! Today, they’ve put up a preview for the upcoming expansion to Descent, Mists of Bilehall, which doesn’t come with new heroes but instead provides a lot of stuff for the Overlord, predominantly monsters! Yeah!

Descent Mists of Bilehall

And what awesome monsters! That red dude, the Bone Horror, is a particular favourite, it looks incredible! Three more Lieutenant Packs are also on their way, and taken together, a theme emerges around the lands of Waiqar the Undying, which ties in pretty nicely with the Undead faction that’s coming out soon for Battlelore! Nice!

Unfortunately, still nothing on a big box co-op expansion yet…

The folks over at Team Covenant have also been busy with a whole host of the new games that are for sale at Gen Con this year – take a look!

Blood Rage is another kickstarter I backed, due for release in October. Take a look at the awesome:

The weekend hits!

Ashes: Rise of the Phoenixborn is a game I recently mentioned as one I was aware of but hadn’t actually taken the time to look into. As it happens, it looks really amazing, and I feel like I need it in my life quite desperately! Certainly looking forward to getting this one!

I have no idea what these goblin figures are for, but I’ve come to love these chaps lately, so might even look at getting some!

Good to see Runebound being demoed, though I’m currently struggling to find opinions on how it plays. My quest will continue, however!

I’ve only played one game of Abyss, but it was pretty good. Great to see the game growing, with new mechanics that sound very interesting!

(This will be updated throughout the weekend, so feel free to keep checking in for more awesome stuff!)

Settlers of Catan

Hey everybody!
It’s that time of the week again! Time for another game to come under the spotlight of awesome, and following last week’s look at some of the expansions to the genre-defining Dominion, I thought it was time to take a look at another true juggernaut of the board game world, and bring to this blog a gateway game that, in a lot of respects, started it all. Today is a game day blog with a difference, as we look at Settlers of Catan!

Settlers of Catan

Settlers of Catan is an area-control, resource-management game in the German mould, first published all the way back in 1995. I say “started it all” as its success was unparalleled at the time, seeing worldwide sales rocket and really helping what I suppose you could call the non-traditional board game market really take off globally. Its popularity has been demonstrated time and again by being the only such board game offered for general sale up and down the UK, very much in the manner only previously achieved by Hasbro staples. Anyway!

Settlers of Catan

In Settlers of Catan, you take the role of a settler, aiming to cultivate the land nearby to gain maximum resources, which you use to increase your presence on the island of Catan by building roads and villages, and upgrading villages to cities. The board is made up of a number of hexagonal tiles that can be randomized each game, meaning no two games will play alike. Each hex represents a type of resource you can claim – wood, brick, ore, wool or grain. At the start of each turn, two dice are rolled to determine which hex tiles produce resources, and if a player has a settlement adjacent to any such tile, he’ll get the resource card for later use.

As the rules say, you’ll never gain all the resources you’d ever need simply from generating resources out of your own settlements, and a very big part of this game is the bartering system of trading with your fellow-players. When the game begins, you essentially have two free settlements, but due to restrictions on where these can be placed, you may find yourself blocked by other players, forcing you to always work for your resources. If your fellow players don’t want to trade with you, however, you’re always welcome to trade with the bank, or if you control a coastal settlement, you may be able to trade off-island. This affords the game a tremendous amount of player-interaction, as you all seek to gain resources and, potentially, off-load that glut of wood or wheat for the more lucrative ore you need to build your city.

Settlers of Catan

While there is technically no hand limit, a roll of a 7 will activate the Robber, who is moved to a tile to prevent it generating resources – if a player has more than seven cards in hand he must discard half of his hand. Furthermore, the player who moves the Robber can steal a card from a player with a settlement adjacent to the Robber’s new tile.

Robbery can be prevented by the use of the Knight development card. The development deck has a variety of other cards that grant several in-game effects, such as the Monopoly card that allows a player to claim all cards of one resource type from the other players. Development cards are bought with resources much like settlements and roads, and can be a viable strategy to gain victory bonuses, for example having the largest army. When a player reaches 10 victory points, the game immediately ends.

Settlers of Catan

A large number of expansions have been released for the game, such as Seafarers, where you explore a board made up of smaller islands; Cities and Knights, where you must work together to fend off barbarian invasion; Traders and Barbarians, which features a number of smaller scenario-based expansions and includes the official two-player variant (which basically uses two ghost-players). Two years ago, a second scenario-based expansion was released, Explorers and Pirates. In addition to all of these, there have been a host of re-skins of the game, from the historical series to Star Trek Catan, and card game and dice game alternatives are also available.

But here’s the thing, guys: I hate Catan. Actually, hate is a pretty strong word here – I dislike the game, quite a lot. Normally when I feature a game here on a game day blog, it’s a game that I have in my collection and one that I love, but this one is just awful. I first played it years ago with the ex-girlfriend, and we were actually both pretty ambivalent about the whole thing, but when it was featured on Tabletop a few years ago, I convinced myself to try it again, and bought the game, but couldn’t convince anyone to play with me. So I downloaded the app, and played a lot of Catan that way. I was learning the ropes, and it wasn’t all that bad – maybe we had been hard on it, back in the day. Heck, I even won a game! Finally, with all my experience on the app behind me, I brought it to the table nearly two years ago with some friends, and we played what I would consider my first real game. And it was awful. I was teaching the others to play, so we were going through it pretty casual-like, building settlements and roads, and all the rest of it, but it just ended so horribly that it soured us all towards the game, and I’ve never wanted to go back.

A big part of this is the fact that development cards are kept secret until they are actually played. No big deal in and of itself, as a lot of games have cards with a secret knowledge mechanic. Heck, pretty much all card games play like that! But when someone can just spring their Victory Point cards on you and basically claim victory out of almost literally nowhere, it leaves a pretty sour taste in the mouth for everyone at the table. I actually won that game we played, and I felt like a bastard for it – people were building their settlements and their cities, and felt like they were on track for a win, when I played my cards in very much a “oh, and by the way, I’ve just won” manner. It just really sucked.

This has also happened with pretty much all of my games with the app, too. You’re there, building your board-presence, watching what the other guys are doing, wondering if that hand of six development cards is just six knights, you build your city, you feel like you’re on track, the other players don’t have as many victory points on the board as you, but then – out of nowhere, the game is over and you’ve lost. It feels so damn arbitrary that it’s almost worth taking those VP cards out of the deck. But, while I may sound like an entitled arse for saying so, I don’t think it’s up to me to balance a game I’ve paid money for.

I’ve since sold my copy of Settlers, wanting nothing more to do with it. It’s just not a game that I find enjoyable, so was taking up valuable space in the game room that I could devote to others.

Have you played Settlers and loved it? I’d love to hear your experiences with the game!

All quiet…

Hey everybody,
How’s your weekend been going? Mine has been decidedly quiet, just been moving on with the miniatures from the Age of Sigmar box. It’s weekend 3 in the release of new stuff, and this weekend has just seen the scenery arrive, alongside a very goofy cat miniature, all of which I’ve avoided for now – the Judicator archers have gone on pre-order, and I’m much more interested in getting some of those, so have pre-ordered two boxes already. Also, as I’ve been avoiding the Chaos miniatures and preferring a Destruction army to oppose the Stormcast Eternals, I’ve ordered some Minotaurs to go alongside my Ogres (sorry, Ogors) and the newly-purchased River Trolls.

I’ve built everything for the Stormcast Eternals save the Lord-Relictor, which looks like too much of a fiddly model at the minute. But painting has commenced on the dracoth, which I’ve decided to do in an albino scheme rather than the blue-green look that the GW studio use.

Albino dracoth is coming o

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It was a bit of a worrying move for me at first, as I wasn’t convinced I was doing the right thing, but it’s now coming together with the armour having been basecoated, so I feel a little better now! Now I’ve just got the rest of the models to sort out…

#AgeOfSigmar, the next batch. Yep, those Prosecutor models are just beautiful! #Warhammer

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I’ve been a bit surprised there hasn’t been a lot of interesting game news coming out of FFG lately – some previews for upcoming LCG packs, and a look at Wave VII for X-Wing has been about it. But then, GenCon is early this year, opening this coming Thursday! So hopefully there’ll be something a bit more exciting there. We have seen the announcement of a third edition of Fury of Dracula, one of these classic games that I played years and years ago with my gamer ex-girlfriend. I only played it once, and it was back when I was only just getting into games like this, so I wasn’t really all that sold at the time.

Rumours have suddenly flared up that this could signal a Runebound 3rd edition as well, though I’m not entirely convinced at this point. Mainly centred around an image from an artists folio website that shows he’s working on it, it might be very cool, but I doubt anything could make me part with 2nd edition. If it did get announced at GenCon, and it proved to be a strong game, then I might get it to go alongside 2nd edition, but I feel that the boardgame market has changed so much since Runebound was a thing, it probably wouldn’t be anywhere like the same game. But this is all speculation – let’s see what next weekend brings!

Despite the fact it’s been on the publisher website for months, I’ve only this weekend discovered Ashes: Rise of the Phoenixborn from Plaid Hat Games in the above video, and I have to say, it looks pretty interesting! They’re the ones responsible for Summoner Wars, one of my favourite card battle games, so I’m always interested in what they’re up to. It looks like another great card battle game, anyway, so I’m going to keep my eyes on this one for release!

So yeah, a quiet week all around really as we gear up for Gen Con starting on Thursday. I’ll be doing the usual collection of news and stuff as happened last year, so make sure you check back for that!

Warhammer World!

Hey everybody!
Today I went on my nerd pilgrimage to Nottingham. You may know that Nottingham Castle was once one of the most important of the royal residences in England, and of course the legend of Robin Hood is tied strongly to the surrounding area of Sherwood Forest. I’ve been to Nottingham before – years ago – and done the historical stuff, though I did visit the castle area once again to take a look around. Why someone would build such an important castle on a lump of sandstone, which would presumably make undermining the thing possible with a spoon, I don’t know. But even though very little of the medieval fortress remains, it was still pleasant around the area.

Warhammer World

However, I then went off to visit Warhammer World, because I’m a huge nerd and have wanted to go for a visit for a long time. Behold! Prepare yourselves for nerdgasms all over your keyboards…

My day out to #WarhammerWorld #Warhammer

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#WarhammerWorld #Warhammer

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Squigs! #WarhammerWorld #Warhammer

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The displays here are amazing! #WarhammerWorld #Warhammer

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The above diorama is just amazing. After a short corridor with some cases that feature old-style, 1980s miniatures, you enter the room and find that thing facing you. It’s just amazing, with a whole host of Imperial chaps going against the massed Orcs and their Squigs. I don’t really know why, but I find Squigs hilarious, and in fact would love one for a pet. Just so you know.

Necropolis Knights #WarhammerWorld #Warhammer

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Mortis Engine #WarhammerWorld #Warhammer

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Aw yeah, Ogres! #WarhammerWorld #Warhammer

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Erm, Chaos Ogres? #WarhammerWorld #Warhammer

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Mutalith Vortex Beast – those colours! #WarhammerWorld #Warhammer

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The Fantasy room has got so many amazingly-painted miniatures, I can’t even begin to describe how awesome it was! In addition to the massive castle diorama, there are two more – a dwarf/skaven thing in the mines, and a delightful Nurgle pestilence piece that features the Glottkin at its centre.

Space Wolves vs the Behemoth! #WarhammerWorld #Warhammer #Tyranids

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Man, that Trygon! #WarhammerWorld #Warhammer #Tyranids

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Time for 40k! Some more amazing dioramas, and also just case upon case of Space Marines painted in what appeared like every chapter colour. Seriously, there were a lot of Space Marines in those cabinets…

#WarhammerWorld #Warhammer

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This is just a small part of a massive, two-storey exhibit that forms the centrepiece of the stairway, and is just stupendous. The sheer amount of miniatures involved is breathtaking, and also the scope of the battle depicted. It’s a Space Marines vs Chaos thing, and part of the thing features hundreds of Bloodletters swarming over the walls. Awesome!

#WarhammerWorld #Warhammer #Eldar

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Man, that Toxicrene! #WarhammerWorld #Warhammer #Tyranids

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Ah, the #Necrons! #WarhammerWorld #Warhammer

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#WarhammerWorld #Warhammer #Necrons

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At last, Necrons! I was pleased to see at least one diorama featuring my beloved metal warriors.

Hive Fleet Kraken! #Tyranids #WarhammerWorld #Warhammer

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And finally – Age of Sigmar!

#WarhammerWorld #Warhammer #AgeOfSigmar

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#AgeOfSigmar #WarhammerWorld #Warhammer

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#WarhammerWorld #Warhammer #AgeOfSigmar

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It was cool to see the new stuff taking its place among the other miniatures on display there. Unfortunately, only the models we’ve already seen for sale were on show – maybe new stuff like the Judicators will be added as they become available…

Swag! #WarhammerWorld #Warhammer

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If you’ve ever been into a Games Workshop store, you’ll know they have glass cases of miniatures, boxes of miniatures for sale alongside books, and tabled where you can play the game. Warhammer World is basically that, but huge – rather than a couple of cases, there are seven or eight exhibition halls of miniatures in some amazing scenic battles; rather than two or three tables, there’s an entire battle hall filled with tables; rather than a few shelves of books, there’s a Black Library store (as well as the only physical Forge World store in the world). There’s also a shop, which is about what you’d expect, though they say if you place an order for something, it’ll be there within three hours or so – given that their warehouse is, like, across the road.

But yeah, in one sense, Warhammer World is just like a very big Games Workshop store, with some fancy minis on show. In another sense, however, it’s like the ultimate palace of awesome for anyone who is interested in miniatures painting and the like. The miniatures are so very beautifully-painted – I could be wrong, but I believe they are the miniatures that are shown on the box art and website, so they’re the absolute apex of design and artistry.

I was surprised that I managed to control myself so much in the store, too. I’d kinda allowed myself up to £100 there, and ended up almost struggling to spend just £60. Of course you can’t go to Warhammer World and not buy the exclusive Blood Oath campaign book, but I didn’t get the urge to drop the amount of money they were asking for any of the other stuff. I also picked up some River Trolls, because they look hilarious.

Warhammer World

 

Well folks, there’s the story of my trip to Warhammer World!

 

Prosperity at the Seaside!

Hey folks!
It’s Tuesday, so it’s game day here at spalanz.com! Today, we’re taking a look at some of the expansions to that behemoth of a deck-building game, Dominion! There are lots of these, of course, so I’ve decided to split the expansions into two groups, so we’re going to start at the beginning!

Dominion came out in 2008, and after a second core set, Intrigue, was followed by its first proper expansion in 2009, Dominion: Seaside. This is actually a great expansion, as it takes care of some of the principal weaknesses of the base game. Firstly, it brings in Duration cards that are orange in colour, and are played into your play area as normal. However, they provide an action for you next turn as well as this one, so it allows you to form more of a strategy for what you’re going to do. Secondly, there are cards that allow you to set cards from your hand aside, in particular the Island card that allows you to set aside it and another card for the duration of the game. This is particularly good for deck efficiency in keeping victory cards out, while still allowing them to count at the end of the game.

Overall, Seaside is a really strong expansion to the game, and you should definitely consider picking this one up if you’re a fan of the base game!

Seaside was followed by Prosperity in 2010. The second big-box expansion, Prosperity is all about the big money. Big Money is a common strategy in Dominion, of course, where the objective is to convert all your copper to lots of gold, which will allow you to buy up all the Provinces and win the day. Prosperity works with this by having a lot of expensive cards, including the more expensive Colony victory card, but it also has a lot of interesting Treasure cards anyway, such as Contraband that gives you 3 gold and allows you to make an extra buy (but the player to your left determines what you can’t buy). Counting House is actually an interesting card when working within the Big Money strategy, as it almost encourages you to keep those Copper cards in your deck.

Both of these expansions come with metal coin-like tokens, which really excited the nerd in me, as so many games like these have cardboard tokens for such things. Prosperity also includes victory point tokens, because there are a few Action cards like Monument, which will give you +1 VP token when you play it.

Cornucopia came out shortly after Prosperity, and is a more small-scale expansion to the game. The main mechanic here is that some cards will give you bonuses for having different cards in your hand or deck, such as Harvest, which gives you money for each different card on the top of your deck. There are also the five Prize cards, only one of each is included in the game. They come into play with the Tournament card, where you gain a Prize for revealing a Province from your hand. They have some fairly interesting abilities – certainly, they’re useful – and it’s nice to have something that rewards you for having Provinces in your hand (meaning playing with the Islands from Seaside might lead to some interesting decisions).

Dominion promos

Finally, let’s take a look at the five promo cards available for the game!* Out of all of these, my favourite is the Walled Village card, which was released at Origins 2011 to celebrate the 10-year anniversary of Carcassonne winning the Spiel des Jahres (the original German-language card is actually named after the French town). Its effect is a little too specific, if I’m honest, but it’s just the fact that it’s Carcassonne, y’know? Awesome times!

All of these expansions are really good additions to the line, providing a lot of more of the same while also introducing new strategies and a couple of extra mechanics. Dominion remains a very straightforward deck-building game, and these expansions manage to enhance the experience while at the same time keeping the gameplay fairly uncluttered and clear. I must admit, I’ve not played with multiple expansions, but the basic rules for choosing kingdom cards will mean that your games will never get truly complicated, allowing you to enjoy the game for its own sake, rather than providing an exercise in remembering rules. In this respect, they continue the tradition of German games being among the most clear in the world.

However, I kinda like the complexity that US designs have added into the deck-building mix. Dominion is actually fairly abstract, and while it can be a very rewarding experience to set up the perfect chain of action cards that allow you to do all sorts of shenanigans on your turn, ultimately I find it can be a bit stale after just one or two plays. Other deckbuilders, particularly Thunderstone and Marvel Legendary, have an actual gameplay mechanic, where you’re building a deck for a specific purpose, and I’ve become such a fan of these types that the pure deck-building of Dominion seems somewhat lacking. It’s great to come back to every once in a while, but I wouldn’t honestly say it’s something I love, even with expansion goodness added in.

So there you have it, my first-look at some of the Dominion expansions available. Not sure when I’ll get to the next lot, but hopefully it’ll be soon. At any rate – if you enjoy the base game, you’ll pretty much enjoy any of these, as they all work great with just the base game alone, offering new and exciting opportunities and combos that are definitely worth investigating!

Buy it from amazon:
Dominion
Dominion: Seaside
Dominion: Prosperity
Dominion: Cornucopia

*The promo cards are available through the boardgamegeek store, and there are actually now six such cards – the Prince came out in June last year. 

Ant Man – a movie review

It’s my second movie review in as many weeks! Don’t get excited, now!

Today, I went to see the new MCU offering, Ant Man. I went into this blind, knowing very little about the character, but purposefully having not paid attention to any trailers or hype for it. I must admit, I was really pleased with how much I enjoyed it as a result, and I think I’m going to try my hardest to continue this – unless the words “Star Wars” appear in the title.

here be spoilers!

Of course, Ant Man is the Marvel superhero who can shrink to the size of – spoiler alert – an ant. Rather than being some mutation, it’s caused by that other stalwart of comic book storylines, some advanced tech. We don’t really get much of an explanation of the mysterious Pym Particle, other than it was discovered by Dr Hank Pym as a way to move through molecules or something. He has vials of the stuff that somehow power a suit that shrinks its wearer to insect-size, and that’s really all we need to know to enjoy the ride.

Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) used the suit during the Cold War until his wife, Janet, died. He was forged out of his company by his protege Darren Cross (Corey Stall) and estranged daughter Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) – though what the company does is a mystery, as the Particle is strictly off-limits while Hank is at its head. At any rate, Cross has been working on molecule manipulation ever since, and as the film begins, he’s ready to show off his own version of the suit, the Yellowjacket.

It sounds a little like Iron Man, with the massive corporation and the like, but into this mix is thrown the ex-con Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) and his ex-inmates. Lang is manoeuvered into contact with Hank in an attempt to steal the Yellowjacket prototype before it can be sold to HYDRA. The majority of the second act is taken up with Lang learning how to use the suit, being trained by both Hank and Hope. See, it turns out Hope is sort of playing the middle ground here, and I have to admit, I’m not entirely sure why. The film seems to want us to believe she’s working herself into Cross’ confidence as Hank’s mole, but I kinda ended with the impression that she has her own agenda, and the mid-credits sequence basically seems to affirm that.

The heist goes off wonderfully badly, and involves a massive chase sequence where Darren Cross dons the Yellowjacket, leading to some really excellent action scenes. It all ends happily, anyway, and the end result is something akin to the first Iron Man, though perhaps with more whimsy. It’s a pretty great origin movie, and takes its place well in the MCU.

Ant Man movie

Two things are worth mentioning. First, we have some great anchorage to previous Avengers stuff through the inclusion of Howard Stark and Peggy Carson in the introductory scene that shows Hank leaving SHIELD. We also get what turns out to be a very cool cameo from Anthony Mackie’s Falcon – having kept myself free from the spoilers, I was not expecting that one bit, so that was really great to see. The actual end-credits scene with Falcon and Cap, which I take to be setting up the Civil War movie, fell a little flat, I felt.

The mid-credits scene, however, more than makes up for that. We basically see Hank introduce his daughter to a prototype of the Wasp suit used by her mother, and her reaction has got me so damn well intrigued as to what will happen next! In case you don’t know, Hope van Dyne is a relatively new creation in Marvel comics, from the late 90s. She actually turns out to be an Avengers villain, going by the name of Red Queen, and at one point attempts to destroy the Avengers Mansion. That her brother isn’t introduced in this film – indeed, she appears to be an only child – leads me to think they probably won’t stick to the established storyline, but the possibilities are really pretty exciting here. Evangeline Lilly played the character wonderfully grey, and all those subtle flashes could be construed to be misplaced anger at her father for shutting her out of his life, or they could just be explained by her place at the company as a corporate-bitch-type, or they could actually be setting her up to become a villain. That would be something worth watching…

Anyway, I thought I’d present you all with some garbled thoughts on this movie, though I’m sure manofyesterday will have a much better review up in the next couple of days, so make sure you keep an eye on his blog!