Dark City!

Tuesdays mean just one thing here at spalanz.com – it’s Game Day, where the spotlight of awesome is turned onto one of the many, many games I own and enjoy. Today, it turns to the first big box expansion to Marvel Legendary – it’s time to enter the Dark City!

Marvel Legendary Dark City

I love Marvel Legendary. I own and enjoy a lot of deck-building games, as you wonderful long-time readers will no doubt be aware, but there’s just something about this game that makes it feel so much more than just your usual deck-building experience. Maybe it’s the theme, or the fact there is actual gameplay involved as well as just round after round of buying cards, but there’s just something about it that really speaks to my soul. That said, when the core game came out back in 2012, it got old fairly quickly – and I didn’t even play it all that much at the time. However, Dark City arrived in the summer of 2013, and all of that changed. Indeed, since Dark City’s arrival, this game has never felt old to me since.

Dark City wasn’t the first expansion to the game, but it brought something entirely fresh to the experience, with a slew of new cards that aren’t just exciting because they feature some of our best-loved Marvel super heroes, but also because of the level of thematic invention that come from them. Let’s take a look!

Heroes
In Dark City, we get three new groups of heroes: more X-Men; X-Force, and Marvel Knights. We already had X-Men in the core game, of course, but here we have some of the huge names such as Professor X, Jean Grey, and Angel. We also have Colossus, a new Wolverine, and Cable in X-Force, and some of my all-time favourite Marvel heroes in the Marvel Knights faction: Daredevil and Elektra!

While the core set heroes were undoubtedly cool, the heroes of Dark City are so much cooler, I almost feel the core set needs to be redesigned to fit into this new world. I’m not talking about the artwork here – Dark City features different artwork for each colour of the hero-set, rather than each hero-set only having one piece of art across all 14 cards. I was actually fine with that, as it made the game almost easier to keep track of, and especially easier to clean-up afterwards. But whereas in the core set, there were some synergies such as Iron Man getting bonuses for playing tech heroes, the heroes of Dark City have thematic keywords that actually feel like they evoke that hero’s super power.

Marvel Legendary Dark City

Nightcrawler is always a favourite of mine for this, with his Teleport ability. It basically allows you to set aside a card with Teleport on your turn, then when you draw your six new cards on your next turn, you can add these cards to your hand, hopefully creating powerful combos.

Another cool mechanic is Versatile, which allows you to use a hero’s combat or recruit value, depending on the situation. A couple of heroes have the ability, but the Domino hero is built entirely around this. I must admit, I was never really a fan at first – when I got the game, I was either absorbed by Marvel Knights, or focused on the X-Men. It was the very excellent manofyesterday who pointed out just how awesome this hero is, and I must say, I haven’t looked back since!

Expansion integration is really awesome here too. Something that – inexplicably – only really shone at me recently is the wonderful synergy between Elektra and Spider-Man. Adding in Dark City to the base game heroes is definitely a better experience than can happen with a lot of games like this, where it’s basically adding just more of the same…

Masterminds and Villains
There are four new Masterminds in this set, along with a whole slew of more villain and henchmen groups that, I have to say, are very exciting to me. Let’s take a look…

Apocalypse and Stryfe are lots of fun to go up against, but my favourite has got to be the Kingpin. Well, being such a Daredevil fan, it’s somewhat to be expected… There’s a really cool mechanic that is shared between the Kingpin and his villains, the Streets of New York, called Bribe. This mechanic allows you to defeat the enemies with recruit points as well as attack, almost like some kind of link to Versatile. Anyhow, it sounds like it might make the game easier, but it’s just so very thematic that I can’t help but like it! Plus, the villain group includes such badasses as Jigsaw and Bullseye. Always fun!

Schemes
There are a lot of fun schemes to play here, including some fairly complex things that involve heroes in the villain deck, bystanders in the hero deck – which are complex for me, because I sleeve the cards based on what they are! For a long while, I just used to avoid these things, but they’re actually really fun.

Marvel Legendary Dark City

Among my favourite schemes to play, however, are Detonate the Helicarrier, and Capture Baby Hope. The former I find really exciting and thematic, as the scheme twists cause the hero slots to blow up – you start with more heroes than normal, as well as eight slots for the heroes, but while that sounds a lot, I can tell you, it doesn’t take long for you to end up with just one or two spaces left. Capture Baby Hope involves the villains trying to capture Hope Summers, represented by “a token”. Anyway, it can be one of these really fun schemes where the token is bouncing around between villains and the heroes.

Marvel Legendary Dark City

This expansion is terrific. As of the time of this writing, I have picked up Secret Wars v1 just days ago, but I will still confidently say that this is the best expansion Legendary has seen thus far. It has some of my favourite Marvel characters of all time, which of course makes me biased from the off, but in games like this, it’s more than half the battle!

If you only buy one expansion for Marvel Legendary, be sure to make it this one!

The war is not over…

Yes guys, today I finished Star Wars: Aftermath, the first novel in the new continuity to be set after Return of the Jedi. There had been a lot of fanfare around this early in the month, but as I was in the middle of reading another book when it came out, I had to wait before making it to this one.

So what’s the verdict?

In case you couldn’t face watching that, I’ll provide some written words here as well.

We’re currently on our way to Episode VII, of course, and Aftermath is a first step on that path as we see the shape of the galaxy in the months following the Battle of Endor. The story follows a rag-tag band of folks on the backwater planet Akiva as an Imperial summit is held by some of the survivors of Endor to determine the course of the Empire. The premise of the story sounds pretty great, but unfortunately I feel it fell kinda flat.

The main problem for me, I think, is the hype around it. I was expecting something galaxy-spanning and amazing, super-important with all the main players that I know and love. Instead, we get a story that follows a group of people (“nobodies”, as I kept referring to them in the video – sorry about that!) on a backwater world that doesn’t really amount to anything of significance.

A group of Imperials who we’ve never encountered before are presented as really important to the Empire, and are deciding its fate in a clandestine meeting that is suddenly blown wide open. Of course, Star Wars history is being re-written, so we shouldn’t really know these people, but I still found it difficult to get round. We do get to see Admiral Ackbar quite a bit, along with Wedge and General Madine, and a stream of new New Republic commanders and leaders. Mon Mothma makes an appearance, and we also get Han and Chewie for a bit, but that’s really it. Everybody else is new, and feel like they don’t particularly matter, with perhaps the exception of the Imperial Admiral Rae Sloane. She’s one of the major point-of-view characters during the story, first introduced in the earlier novel A New Dawn, and the ending feels like she might see more of her in upcoming stories.

The story is told in the present tense, which I really enjoyed, and I liked how close the Clone Wars felt to the current timeline here. Bantam novels set in this era made the Clone Wars feel more than a mere 2-3 decades ago, almost as an accident of the time they were written in. While previously, the word “Jedi” was made out to be something special, the sort of thing that most people wouldn’t know anything about, now we’re getting the truth that yeah, for a significant portion of the galaxy, Jedi would have been within living memory. In the official timeline, Order 66 and the Battle of Endor are only separated by, what, 22 years. I’m quite pleased to see that side of things being recognised now. It’s also kinda exciting when we see relics of the Clone Wars such as Separatist droid factories and whatnot.

The main bulk of the Akiva storyline is interspersed with “interludes” that take us across the galaxy, ostensibly to see in what shape it is following the Battle of Endor. However, due to the extent that personal stories are being told here, it doesn’t really feel like we’re really getting the extent of that. A couple of them are potentially interesting, and could be setting up future developments, but in the main I feel it’s a curious mix of “oooh!” and “uh-huh…” For instance, on Taris a group of cultists buy what they believe to be Darth Vader’s lightsaber, clearly revering the Sith Lord. This ties in with what we know of Kylo Ren’s obsession, and could potentially be setting something more up. We also see that the Jawas on Tatooine have recovered Mandalorian armour that looks to be acid-burnt, so I assume Boba Fett will be back, because obviously.

In short, Aftermath has been set up as the beginning of something amazing, but perhaps due to all this hype, I feel it fell particularly flat. It’s a good story, with lots to commend it, but it falls into that trap that Del Rey books have for at least the last five years been in, where the stories they tell are no longer the swashbuckling epics of the Bantam era, but more like just any old story that happens to be set in the Star Wars universe. The fact that we don’t get any Luke, we only get a hologram of Leia, and Han and Chewie only get a handful of pages, it just doesn’t feel like it’s all that important to the overall storyline in the way that, say, the Thrawn trilogy did. I’m expecting to be proven wrong come December, but for now, I feel a bit let down by this book.

But it’s part of a trilogy, apparently, so maybe it’ll round itself out as that gets underway. Haven’t actually come across anything more on those other two books yet, which feels weird…

The Summer of Sigmar!

Well it seems like the Summer of Sigmar is now over, with Tau on the horizon after the upcoming Skarbrand, so I thought I’d assemble all of my Age of Sigmar blogs here, for no real reason beyond wanting to have everything in one place. Because I’m fussy like that.

A New Age
It all began back in July, when White Dwarf #75 brought with it a free Stormcast Eternal Liberator. The magazine attempted to show something of the history of the new world – the Mortal Realms – but it ended up a little jumbled, and far from wanting more, instead I think it would have been wiser to have not given us that. It led to quite a lot of negative reaction – including the famous burning of the dark elf army.

Despite all of that, however, I was prepared to change my mind.

Sigmar Saturday
Once the models were released, however, I totally changed my opinion, and really began to embrace the new Stormcast Eternals – helped in no small part by the painting tutorials put out by Games Workshop on youtube. It was in watching these tutorials that I decided I was going to really go for this, anyway, and slowly, over the next few weeks, I launched myself into the most-concerted painting effort I have ever experienced!

Age of Sigmar

Age of Sigmar, week two
The second week saw the release of the big book, as well as the first “proper” kits for the Stormcast Eternals. The box of Liberators were particularly nice, though I initially overlooked them, having already put together so many from the core set.

Age of Sigmar, week three
New terrain! However, this was a quiet week for me, as I laboured on the Dracoth from the starter set and waited for the Judicators to arrive…

Age of Sigmar, week four
Week four started to get really exciting, as the promise of yet more stuff became apparent. Judicators were released, and Retributors went on pre-order along with yet more terrain and another faction – the Sylvaneth, a re-packaging of the tree spirits from the old Wood Elves.

Age of Sigmar, week five
The most expensive weekend yet, as I bought new scenery and new books, along with the new Retributor multi-part kit. Things seemed to have hit a crescendo for me, however, as the tone began to shift from the forces of Order to those of Chaos. I wasn’t particularly interested there, having sold the Chaos miniatures from the core set, but something that I definitely appreciated was the continued look at the lore of this word. Another campaign book, The Quest for Ghal-Maraz, went up on pre-order, and I think it was at this point I began to feel there was some real depth to this setting, after all.

Warhammer Age of Sigmar

Age of Sigmar, week six
The sixth week was mercifully quieter, as Chaos began to be a thing. However, as I began to take note of the setting and the lore, I returned to reading the End Times novels from earlier in 2015, so that I could leap into the novels and stories from this world. A lot of repackaged models were released and up for pre-order, further fleshing out the Chaos factions, while I caught up with finishing off the models from the starter set.

Age of Sigmar, week seven
As Chaos continued to be fleshed out with the enormous Dreadhold kits, I turned my attention to the Ogres that I’d started at the beginning of 2015, thinking them a suitable second army for my Age of Sigmar incursions. However, there seems to be something about Ogres that really excites me, yet I can never seem to finish even one model. Being used to painting little metal warriors, maybe I’m just not used to so much skin…

Age of Sigmar, week eight
Week eight brought a return to the Stormhosts, with perhaps one of the silliest models I’ve ever seen, the Celestant-Prime. I preordered it simply for hilarity’s sake, while focusing on my Liberators by building up some squads with swords rather than hammers. The sword look is one that I really like, anyway, and if I never have to paint a shield again, I’ll be a happy guy!

I’d also finished The Rise of the Horned Rat, which was an enjoyable look at the skaven, dwarves and goblins during the End Times.

Age of Sigmar, week nine
Finally, we got the multi-part Prosecutors I’d been waiting for since the starter set! The Prosecutors went up for pre-order and I was over-excited in a way that hasn’t been seen for a long time! We also saw the pre-order for the Stormcast Eternal battle-tome, a curious book that acts like a codex for the army, despite all of the rules being made available for free from the website. However, the way GW had been producing books for the Age of Sigmar meant that this would be an insta-buy due to the amount of additional content being ploughed into it. I’ve mentioned it before, but these books feel almost like a kid’s annual from the 90s, with all manner of activities and stories to keep you busy!

Age of Sigmar, week ten
A very exciting week for me, seeing the Prosecutors at last! These kits act almost as the apotheosis of the Stormcast Eternal line, with weapon options that echo previous releases and really tie the army together. The upgrade kits felt a little too late, but are nice to have regardless. The two special character kits, the Knight-Venator and the Knight-Azyros were also interesting additions.

Warhammer Age of Sigmar

I’d finally started to build some AoS scenery, as well as the last model from the starter set, the Lord-Relictor, and finished my foray into the End Times series with Lord of the End Times. The novel ends by perfectly setting up this new world, so while it was a little odd that I’d come to it as the first round of releases was wrapping up, it was somehow quite apt that I did!

Age of Sigmar, week eleven
And so we come to the final blog in my series, as we wrap up the release of the Stormcast Eternals with the Knight-Heraldor and the Knight-Vexillor. Strange choices for single-figure releases, as old-time Fantasy players will know that army units always included musician and standard-bearer figures in the box. Of course, the suitably different poses compensate for this, but part of me wonders why we haven’t had the option to make these guys in the Liberator box.

Anyhow, with a final flurry of Chaos releases, Age of Sigmar now looks like it has wrapped up. I do hope we’ll be getting more as the year progresses, though perhaps not in as concerted a release window as we’ve seen here.

The summer of Sigmar will always go down, for me, as the most exciting time for painting miniatures as I’ve yet experienced!

Age of Sigmar

Alhambra

It’s Tuesday! It’s Game Day! And today, it’s time for one of the classics of the tabletop gaming scene – let’s look at Alhambra!

Alhambra

This game is one of a few that I bought after seeing the Tabletop episode, which I suppose a lot of people did. I mean, we’re talking the Wheaton Effect in action, and all!

Hopefully you all enjoyed the hell out of that!

I really enjoy playing this game. It’s one of these games that seems almost deceptively simple – I mean, you draw resources that you use to buy tiles to build your Alhambra, and the person with the most profitable buildings in their Alhambra will win. But yet, there’s so much to take account of just where you put those buildings…

Alhambra

There is a strategy at work here that I find very much akin to problem-solving, which is not why I like to play games one bit. And yet, I still like this game an awful lot. It’s certainly very attractive to play, and while I often fall into the trap of thinking “well, I’ll put that garden here, because it’ll give the girls something to look out from the seraglio onto…” rather than “I need to make sure I don’t block that with a wall that could lead to me using up turns just reorganising…”. I still tend to try and use as few turns as possibly reorganising, and mainly attempt to build my Alhambra straight off. It doesn’t always work, but still!

I’m not so big on Euro-style games as I was, but this is still one of the go-to games on a games night that I really enjoy. There are a number of expansions, including one that allows you to drive archways through walls or somesuch, but I haven’t actually felt a need to buy any of them as of writing this blog. While I’m normally an expansionist fiend, and this will probably sound a bit strange from me, it’s one of those games that I actually feel doesn’t really need any expansion. Carcassonne is quite similar in this regard – sure, the added mechanics can be fun, but I like to play the game with the core set only as much as I play with the extras. Alhambra doesn’t need more, it can be enjoyed as a beautiful game exactly for what it is.

If you haven’t already, you should totally go snap yourself up a copy!

Avengers: Age of Ultron

Avengers Age of Ultron

I missed this at the cinema back in May, as I took too long trying to convince people to go see it with me. So as soon as I saw the DVD released on Monday, I snapped it up like a snappy thing, and this afternoon finally sat down to see what I missed five months ago.

Ohmygod, it was just so awesome! While I was a little confused at the start, it nevertheless turned out to be a really great action movie, and definitely worthy of its place on the shelf alongside the, what, ten other movies in the MCU now? Yeah, it was a really good ride. As to its relationship to its predecessor – man, that’s like asking a parent which of their children they prefer. There are reasons to like both films, you can’t say one was better than the other. Sure, the first Avengers movie felt a lot more polished, but I feel most of its appeal comes from the continued bafflement that arises out of the fact that Marvel actually managed to pull an Avengers movie off.

We start with some great action as the gang storm a secret HYDRA base, where experiments are being done on the two “miracles”, Pietro and Wanda Maximoff. Yes, they’re actually mutants, and no, nothing is made of the fact Magneto is their father – the ongoing studio spat between Marvel and Fox seems to be causing some serious issues in the source material, but anyway. The Avengers escape with Loki’s staff (unfortunately, Loki himself doesn’t make an appearance), and Iron Man begins to use the power within to create a legion of soldiers that can help protect the world. Something goes wrong, and he winds up creating the villain hell-bent on destroying the world instead – he creates Ultron. The big robot escapes to eastern Europe, where he finds Pietro and Wanda, and all sorts of crazy starts going down when they realise he’s after the huge deposits of vibranium (the metal from whence Captain America’s shield is made) in Wakanda (sadly, no Black Panther, either), and when they attempt to stop him, Wanda/Scarlet Witch messes with everybody’s mind, and the mission is an unmitigated failure – particularly when Hulk basically goes on a rampage that not even Iron Man in the Hulkbuster armour can contain.

When everything looks shot to hell, Hawkeye steps up by taking them all to his home in the country (who knew?), where Nick Fury reappears. He manages to reunite the gang in their darkest hour, and they head off to Seoul to stop Ultron attempting to create a human body for himself. As Ultron begins to upload his consciousness into this body, Scarlet Witch reads his mind and discovers his plans for world destruction, which prompts the twins to turn on him. As the Avengers arrive, they all band together to stop him, and manage to gain the synthetic body, though Ultron captures Black Widow.

Iron Man threatens the unity of the group once again when he uploads JARVIS into this synthetic body, but while both Quicksilver and Captain America attempt to stop him, Thor intervenes and manages to awaken the android – it’s Vision! Turns out he has been empowered with one of the infinity stones, and the fact that Vision can lift Thor’s hammer seems to settle the argument as to who’s side he’s on. The team then head back to eastern Europe to confront Ultron and rescue Black Widow, but all hell breaks loose when Ultron uses the vibranium to make a machine that tears most of the city from the earth: the idea being, he’ll raise it high enough that, when it crashes back down to earth, the shockwave will destroy everything across the planet.

A massive set-piece battle ensues, and while the good guys manage to evacuate the people from the city with the arrival of Nick Fury in the helicarrier, Quicksilver is apparently killed in the process. This makes Scarlet Witch mad, and she annihilates Ultron’s army of copies, before tearing the heart out of his main body. Unfortunately, one of the drones manages to drop the city, and it takes Iron Man and Thor to basically overload the system and make it detonate while still in the air. Scarlet Witch is saved by Vision, and apart from Quicksilver’s death, it seems all ends reasonably well. The film ends with Captain America and Black Widow addressing Falcon, War Machine, Vision and Scarlet Witch as a new team. Interesting!

The fact that I’d intended that summary to be a paragraph, and it turned into four, kinda shows just how much is going on in this movie. There is a lot of action, but there’s also a lot of character development, as we see strands from each other movie pulled together in new and interesting ways that was as much of a pleasure to see as lots of stuff blowing up. We get a particularly interesting insight into Black Widow’s past and training, which almost makes me think there’ll be no Black Widow standalone movie, though of course, having appeared in about half of the Marvel movies, an origin story would kinda be awkward. Unless there was so much background here to make us want to explore it more? Who knows. She’s a really awesome character though, and while there are some awkward moments with Bruce Banner (I feel a bit like the romance there is a bit too forces), she’s generally pretty amazing.

Captain America: Civil War is the next movie slated for the MCU timeline, which seems a little weird as Iron Man and Captain America, while having their disagreements as per, end this movie on pretty strong ground once more. So it’ll be interesting to see how the animosity builds between the two – unless that was why they ended on such strong ground here? Hm.

At any rate, this was a really great film that I enjoyed immensely. Ultron was hilarious, it’s great to see the gang back together of course, and I’m definitely excited to see where they go next.

Age of Sigmar, week 11

Wow, eleven weeks of Sigmar! Never thought I’d see the day. Well, I suppose I kinda did, but anyway. We’ve had lots of shiny new stuff for nearly three months now, but it seems the releases are indeed winding down now, as we move back, presumably into 40k.

Warhammer Age of Sigmar

This weekend has seen just two models released for my beloved Stormcast Eternals, the Knight-Heraldor and the Knight-Vexillor. They look like pretty decent models to paint up, so I’ll likely be getting round to them before too long.

Up next are more Khorne releases – two single models, and another batch of repackaged figures. As I’m staying away from Chaos, my wallet breathes a sigh of relief at this! While I was on the way back from picking up my models at the local store this morning, however, I started wondering when we’ll likely be seeing the next round of Age of Sigmar releases. I mean, I assume we’ll be getting some Tzeentch at some point? We’ve had a lot of Nurgle in the re-releases, and the Skaven (who seem to be substituting for Slaanesh) have also had a decent raft. Khorne still appears to be the vanguard Chaos god, but nothing from the Lord of Change? Maybe we’ll have a smaller release window later in the year, with more figures for Order? Or there may be a whole other plan going on that I can’t fathom at this point? Hm.

Anyway, this week’s White Dwarf is, unsurprisingly, gore-tastic with all the Khorne stuff. While the new Skullgrinder looks hilarious, waving a flaming anvil around, the Slaughterpriest just looks a bit silly, if you ask me. There’s a great Armies on Parade feature, though.

What I’ve been working on

This week has been pretty slow for painting, as I’ve been really busy in work. I’ve done the gold armour on the new Prosecutors and the Judicators, as well as the Lord Relictor, but haven’t actually made any further headway there. The main thing is, I’ve been painting up the Ophidian Archway! Painting is a loose term here, as I’ve just been slathering it in Seraphim Sepia, which doesn’t really feel like painting, but still:

The dragon-like chap on the right has been particularly problematic for me, I have to say. Initially, I’d wanted to paint the creatures on this model a slightly different colour, to represent the fact that, in the rules, heroes can attempt to bring the creatures to life. However, using Fuegan Orange to shade the guy left me with something vaguely prawn-like. Not a particularly fearsome creature, but the effect just didn’t look right whatsoever. So I’ve drybrushed the whole thing and it has helped somewhat, but I’m still not really a fan. Need to have a think about what I’m going to do next for my Numinous Occulum…

Warhammer Age of Sigmar

Strange Remnants

Hey everybody!
Time for another game day blog here at spalanz.com, and today I’m taking a look at the latest expansion for Eldritch Horror: Strange Remnants!

Eldritch Horror Strange Remnants

The second small-box expansion features a new Ancient One and four new Investigators, along with more assets, artifacts, spells and conditions. There are new Prelude cards to help regulate your expansion usage, and an adventure deck along with what is to me the outstanding new mechanic of this expansion, the Mystic Ruins deck. So let’s take a look inside the box.

Eldritch Horror Strange Remnants

First of all, this expansion breaks new ground for the Eldritch Horror line by having investigators in a small box expansion. Previously, we only had Forsaken Lore to judge how the line would be handled, and judging by the high number of people keen for more investigators to play with, this is a welcome addition. The new investigators are also a very nice mix, with some very useful abilities all round. The Focus mechanic returns from Mountains of Madness, and it seems to be so pervasive here that I’m betting it will become a staple of future expansions, too.

New spells, new artifacts, new assets (and unique assets) and new conditions are all welcome additions, giving additional gameplay options that will be useful no matter which expansions you’re playing with. The new encounters for the four location types, as well as the new Otherworld locations, do seem to be fairly pertinent to the task at hand, though I imagine they wouldn’t cause too much chaos if you were playing against Yig, for instance. Of course, this may just have been down to luck of the draw during my own games, but they certainly felt like they belonged in a game against this specific Ancient One.

Which brings us to the big bad of this expansion, Syzygy. A cosmic alignment, you’re basically fighting against the cultists who are trying to bring about the end of the world, and a lot of this expansion feels very Azathoth-y. Indeed, it’s almost strange, given Azathoth appeared in the base game, and this is only the third expansion for the game, that we’d have an Ancient One that is so similar in mythos feel. But we have it and, thankfully, it’s pretty awesome.

The AO uses a mechanic of adding eldritch tokens to the red space of the omen track whenever that space is passed, these tokens providing buffs to the cultists working to bring about the end of days. Whenever two or more Syzygy mysteries have been solved, you must flip the sheet at the end of the mythos phase and go into the final mystery – so completing three mysteries is no longer a win condition, as you’ll always have to go up against this last one. It’s actually pretty great, too. The theme states that the portal has opened, and you need to use the special encounter deck Sealing the Portal in order to win the game. Unlike the special encounters we’re used to for other Ancient Ones, these are particularly nasty in that pretty much all of them will see you devoured if you fail the tests.

Syzygy is a great AO to go up against, and all of the cards in this expansion really pull together the theme of trying to solve a conspiracy to bring about the end of the world. Perhaps the most obvious part of all for this is the Mystic Ruins deck, which is among my favourite mechanics for the game line so far. It’s basically an Expedition encounter deck, shuffled at the beginning of the game and the token placed on whichever location is on the top of its deck. There are four mystic locations – the Great Wall of China, Stonehenge, Chichen Itza and the Moai Statues. These are all represented by pre-existing locations – Shanghai, London, and spaces 7 and 3, respectively. Now, I really love this idea of taking a pre-existing board location and using it for a new purpose. Back when the game was initially announced, the idea of the board representing the world left a lot of people perplexed as to expandability due to a finite number of locations right out of the gate – but here we see that this doesn’t necessarily need to be the case. I think it’s really cool, anyway, and I hope they try it again with different things – in the way that this expansion has you following it as you follow the clues to the conspiracy, it could totally be used to follow clues to anything in a much more focused fashion than is usually the case with Research Encounters.

Eldritch Horror Strange Remnants

I’ve played this expansion a couple of times, and have really loved it. It has had some truly epic games, such as the time Zoey Samaras wound up hospitalised while trying to seal the portal, but Marie Lambeau was able to battle through with Zoey’s blessing to thwart the conspiracy at the eleventh hour and save the world from doom. Strange Remnants proves that the Eldritch Horror line is only getting better with each new release, and has kinda set the bar pretty high for Under the Pyramids now! Let’s see what Christmas brings, anyway…

Catching Up with FFG

Hey everybody,

It’s been an interesting few weeks for games fans, and while I haven’t been all that regular with keeping up to date myself, I thought today was high-time that changed. So let’s take a look at what FFG have been up to the past few weeks…

Android Netrunner has seen the next two packs in the Mumbad Cycle previewed: Business First and Democracy and Dogma. I was really excited for this cycle back when it was first mentioned in the summer,  and it looks like it’s really shaping up to be something very, very cool. While I’m not usually a fan of the Criminal faction, the new runner, Nero Seven, looks like he might have a very nice synergy with the new cards that could well be worth investigating. It’s really nice to see the theme coming from these packs, I have to say. Makes me wonder if they’ll be publishing any new novels set in the dystopian future anytime soon…

I love some of the new cards being previewed in the new Endor cycle for the Star Wars LCG, and the recent The Forest Moon article has shown another card I’m going to definitely make room for in my Jedi deck – Outwit. It changes the priority in which Fate cards are resolved in the edge battle, then you draw a card – always good to have cards that let you do stuff then replace themselves in your hand. The new Fate card for the cycle, Battle for Endor, is also worth mentioning as (hopefully) seeing a lot of Ewok/Endor-based stuff going on, which should just be funny. I’ve not played with the Rebel faction nearly as much as I perhaps should have, but the new objective set previewed in the article has got me wanting to try them out, so that’s interesting… While I’m not a tournament player, rumours of a potential event at my local store have got me wanting to get into it, just to get to play the game some more…

X Wing Force Awakens

On the subject of Star Wars, this massive piece of news took up most of last week as FFG announced the new iteration of their X-Wing core set, to coincide with the new film coming out now on December 17 here in the UK. This isn’t any kind of revised edition, it’s important to note that: what we have here are two TIE fighters and an X-Wing that have been painted to look like the new ships in the new film, alongside the requisite new pilot cards and upgrades. So there’s a lot of new art, but the rules are the same. So you can basically field the new ships alongside your old, which is really useful to existing fans of the game. I assume there will be new versions of old friends like Luke and Han down the road, to recognise the change from the classic trilogy to the new, but it looks like the fundamentals of the game remain unchanged. Which I suppose is nice, but I’m still currently on the fence about getting this when it sees its wider release later in the month.

Warhammer Conquest is really looking great with the new Planetfall Cycle, especially with the new preview of the fifth pack, Wrath of the Crusaders. We’re getting the Black Templars in the Space Marine faction, which is pretty exciting stuff, with some great synergy around the warlord and his signature squad. Looks like there should be some amazing stuff going on in that faction once this pack hits, so I’m really looking forward to that! We should be getting the new Tyranid expansion soon, as well, so that’s yet more awesome to look forward to!

Legend of the Five Rings

Most of this post has been about the excitement coming in FFG’s LCGs, but I’ve saved perhaps the most exciting piece of news until last. We’re getting a new one! Legend of the Five Rings is one of the powerhouses of CCGs, with a strong Oriental theme and immersive mechanics borne of a long history of publishing. I’ve only actually played the game once, and while you can never really judge a game from your first play, I do recall it being a fantastic experience, and have been keen to try it out again since. Well, FFG will be publishing it as a LCG from summer 2017, so less than two years until we can see the newly-imagined game. I find it interesting that they’re being quite up-front about making mechanical changes to the game: ordinarily, whenever a beloved IP like this passes between publishers, the new one will make a lot of noise about preserving what the game is, but FFG are basically saying, “we’ve got it now, and we’re gonna be making changes, so get ready”. It’s quite a nice change, I feel, and whether I’m only thinking this from my very brief history with the game, but I feel it’s actually quite exciting to see just what they’re going to make of it.

Part of me is wondering whether this means the death-knell for Call of Cthulhu, however. Since the announcement of A Game of Thrones, second edition, Call of Cthulhu has become the oldest LCG currently in print. It was the first to move to a deluxe-only expansion distribution model, where we’ve seen faction-based boxes and theme-based boxes now merged into one, and with The Mark of Madness, all seven factions will have seen their own dedicated deluxe expansion (though whether the Order of the Silver Twilight will need a second deluxe is debatable, as their box came to introduce the faction in the first instance). Will the tenth box be the final one? It’s due very soon (though is curiously absent from the upcoming page), so I expect the “it’s here!” announcement will tell us more.

No matter which LCG you prefer, interesting times are ahead, I’m sure!

Age of Sigmar, week 10

Hey everybody,
It’s time for winged fury as we arrive in the tenth week of Age of Sigmar releases!

Warhammer Age of Sigmar

This weekend is the one I’ve been waiting for since that first week of July, when I saw the painting video for the Prosecutors and just fell in love with those models. This weekend is pretty big – in fact, it’s been the most expensive for strictly new models so far, I think! We’ve got the new Prosecutor box, which has so many awesome bits and pieces I feel light headed to think about it, alongside the Knight Azyros kit, which can be built also as a Knight Venator. Got to be honest, I didn’t realise they were the same kit when I made my pre-order, but instead just snapped up both, envisaging a clampack-style character for each. But hey, it means I’ll get a spare phoenix – sorry, star eagle – to do something with…

The upgrade packs are exactly that, upgrade packs, but perhaps the most interesting release this weekend is the battletome for the Stormcast Eternals. Is it a codex/army book? Well, the answer is a resounding “kinda” – it has the warscrolls for the entire range, along with the battalion lists, and some history fluff along with some wonderful artwork and awesome miniatures photography. There are also battle plans, which I feel are recycled but may not be, and the four-page rules that have now made it into every Age of Sigmar book published for the game. However, the feel of it is much less like the codex that we were perhaps expecting, perhaps because we’ve already seen the warscrolls before. Instead, it keeps that feel of being very much like a kids’ annual from back in the day – something I mean in the very best possible way. There are the rules for your game, there are even some scenarios to play through, and there’s all the fluff you could ever want. There are also paint schemes to try, and it comes across more as a sort of toybox of awesome that I’m actually really excited to have, and to read through at my leisure, regardless of whether I’ve had some of it before. It’s by no means super-necessary if you’ve kept up with White Dwarf, but it’s certainly nice to have.

Next Week!

Next week looks like it’ll be the final week of the Stormcast Eternals releases, with just two models to finish off the army. The Knight Heraldor, trumpet in hand, and the Knight Vexillor, carrying the banner aloft. I feel like these are nice throwbacks to the Warhammer Fantasy era of battles, where standard bearers and musicians can affect the morale of your unit or an enemy unit. It’s good to see them having a nice effect in-game, although such effects are only once per game. The Knight Heraldor can blow on his sigmarite trumpet to cause buildings to collapse – scenery itself isn’t damaged, but models close to it will potentially be wounded or killed. The Knight Vexillor can call down a comet onto the battlefield to smite the opponents of order in a similar fashion to the Celestant-Prime, although there is the option of building him with a pennant rather than the full-blown banner. which can serve as the eye of a vortex that will transport friendly units anywhere on the battlefield, the wind then causing your foe to take wounds somehow. It all sounds quite nice for add-on effects, and while I was initially surprised that they are separate models – whereas their Fantasy forebears have been options within a unit kit – they do seem to be suitably grand.

The Heraldor looks a bit weird, having the half-mask that enables him to blow the trumpet and all, though I like how he’s been made to fit in with the rest of the line, particularly the Lord-Celestant with the cloak-hammers. The Vexillor has been a bit of a let-down, if I’m honest – the Retributor armour makes him look a bit too bulky, and the standard itself seems a bit odd in comparison. I feel that Khorne has all the good banners! I’m definitely going for the pennant option, as it looks more in-balance with the rest of him.

My week

I haven’t actually done any painting last week, but have moved on to something that I’m pretty excited about – scenery! Yes, I’m not entirely sure what possessed me, but I’ve built both the Ophidian Archway and Numinous Occulum, as well as finally putting the Lord-Relictor together from the starter set.

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I love this #AgeOfSigmar stuff!

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The Lord-Relictor does look vaguely silly, I can’t deny, but I’ve done all of the others, so I might as well put him together as well. The scenery is something that I’m very excited to see, as I’ve never done anything like this before! The archway was actually really easy to assemble, being just an archway and two side-pieces. I think the rules for it are pretty hilarious, though, which could have been part of my motivation there – basically, a hero close to the arch can attempt to bring to life the dragon-beast on the stone, and if he fails, it’ll eat him! The Occulum looks amazing, but was an absolute bear to assemble, unfortunately. It also suffers a lot with gaps, so I’ve tried my hand with greenstuff for the first time ever. I’m not entirely convinced by my results, but it’s better than having those dreadful holes in the model! I actually published a more in-depth review over on tumblr yesterday – check it out here!

You’ll no doubt be pleased to know that I also finished reading the Lord of the End Times! The fifth novel in the series sees the world torn asunder, as Archaon the Everchosen overwhelms Middenheim with the massed forces of Chaos in order to awaken an artifact of destruction. Will the massed Incarnates of Magic be able to stop him? Well – spoiler alert – they won’t. If you were any kind of Warhammer fan, you’ll know that the End Times were exactly that when the storyline finished back in May this year, as the Fantasy world was basically annihilated. I hadn’t realised how literal this was – knowing the ending, I became intrigued as to how the story would actually play out, and the answer was, not how I expected. The artifact under Middenheim was a bit deux-ex-machina-esque, admittedly, and a lot of the novel swung between periods where nobody did much of anything, and what can be described as someone’s attempt to storify their latest tabletop wargame. To some extent, I feel bad for any author saddled with writing the apotheosis to a fantasy world as rich and vibrant as this. A lot of big names were brought back only to be killed off – Sigvald, I’m looking at you – while others were thrown in almost at random – Neferata in the epilogue? Why? However, it was still great to see some of them – even Grombindal made his appearance, which was nice!

The novel ends with more than a glimmer of hope and, knowing what we do now about Age of Sigmar’s lore, it actually makes a whole ton of sense. Hindsight is wonderful, after all. So while I enjoyed the first two entries, the final three were a little too clunky for me, and while I would never dissuade anyone from them, I can’t really say you should expect much.

So, I’ve got some models to build and paint. What do you all think of the Stormcast Eternal range now we’re approaching the final models? Love them? Do you disagree the standard bearer looks weird? How about the fifth End Times novel? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!

Journey: Wrath of Demons

Hey everybody!
Time for another game day here at spalanz.com! I’ve been wondering if I should try to have some kind of structure to these things, so that each month sees at least one first look, one in-depth look, or whatever, but that might be too complicated for my easily-distracted mind to cope with, I’ll be honest. However, today we are indeed seeing a first look, as I delve under the lid of the newly-arrived kickstarter game, Journey: Wrath of Demons!

This was originally a kickstarter game from late 2013, which my friend Tony put me onto (as is normal for kickstarter games, if I’m honest!) but, as I was already heavily-invested in Shadows of Brimstone at the time, I was a little sceptical. I actually went in when an early bird pledge came available – still $170, but it was the sort of all-in deal that I usually go for with these types of games. As the campaign drew to a close, I was somewhat more invested with SoB, but still decided to go for a few of the add-ons, including scenery bits and some expansion stuff.

The campaign was actually pretty exciting, with a lot of additional stuff that really fired my imagination. Tony is really big into Oriental myth and legend, and while I have more than just a passing interest also, I wouldn’t say I know a lot of what I could expect in this game.

Journey Wrath of Demons

My goodness, there is a lot of amazing stuff in this game, though! It’s a co-operative adventure for 1-4 players, which is perhaps the principal reason I was attracted to it. A quest-based game is always to be enjoyed of course, and with all these minis, well it was kind of a no-brainer!

The campaign ended in November 2013, and it seemed to just languish in the ether until it finally started shipping a month or so ago. To some extent, I’d actually forgotten about it – definitely, my enthusiasm for the game had cooled. Of course, I had Shadows of Brimstone last Christmas, and while that was something of a let-down in quality, it still overtook pretty much anything else!

Until last Wednesday…

Journey Wrath of Demons

I took delivery of the game and, if I’m honest, right from opening the box I was really impressed with the production value. This is a miniatures-heavy game – in physical terms as well as game mechanics! – and the storage solution is perhaps the most elegant I’ve yet seen for a game. Three boxes, in which the miniatures are stored in plastic trays. It sounds so damn straightforward, but it just looks great in the box. There are cards and tokens, but the miniatures are really where the game shines, and are what add so much to the game.

So how does the game play?

Journey Wrath of Demons

As I said earlier, this is a quest-based game, with each quest having a different set-up. There are four pilgrims, characters controlled by the players, who are used in every game – if there are less than four players, someone is controlling more than one. I don’t really know enough about Chinese legend to comment on these, but the “main” pilgrim is a chap called Tripitaka, and if he dies the game ends. The pilgrims are doing something – in the above photo, I’m playing the introductory quest where the goal is to save the villagers being terrorized by the bull demons – and are opposed by the monsters, predominantly bulls of some sort in the base game, though expansions for undead and for spiders were part of the campaign, along with other random bits and pieces. Anyway!

Each pilgrim has skill cards and a weapon which upgrades as you gain experience throughout your games. On your turn, you can do the usual sorts of things like move and attack, rest to recover health, and “meditate” which causes you to spin the Fortune dial and potentially gain some useful Fortune cards – the dial is a ying-yang design, and should you flick to black, you must draw a Misfortune card, which can be damaging to you.

Journey Wrath of Demons

When attacking, you roll the custom dice – red dice are attack, and blue are defense. Each pilgrim rolls the same dice, but the skill cards give each something of a unique feel. In addition, you roll one, white pilgrim die, which determines how effective your weapon is. (There’s also a black die that some of the greater demons use). As you may know, I love custom dice, but these in particular feel really great. Combat is fairly exciting as you only have one chance to defeat each demon – if you don’t defeat it in one roll, then it’s staying around for later.

Something that’s really interesting about this game is how the combat works. If you roll enough attack power to defeat the monster, you now have an interesting decision to make – do you merely kill the demon, or attempt to cleanse its soul? Merely killing it will give you bad kharma points, while cleansing the soul will reward you with good kharma, but it isn’t a foregone conclusion it will work. You roll the white die in an attempt to equal or exceed the demon’s soul value – if you succeed, then all is well and the demon is removed from the board; if you fail, the demon is fully healed and you’ll have to go up against him once again.

I feel I need to mention the production quality of the game. The miniatures are superb, and the map tiles are really good, thick cardboard that feel really sturdy. The custom dice are also excellent. The cards, however, are much thinner than, say, CCG-style cards. The most worrying thing, to me, is the quality of the hero character sheets. They have three wheels – much like a FFG game – but the card for the sheet itself feels too thin to support them. Furthermore, there’s a movable plastic thing that tracks your health, but it isn’t really all that secure, and overall, the hero sheet is a real disappointment. Hm.

I only played the intro game last week, and it’s actually a whole lot of fun. I mean, it’s really easy, once you get the rules down, so I’m definitely looking forward to playing this a lot more and seeing more of the nuances of the game. I’ll hopefully get round to another blog, once I’ve managed to really get my teeth into this bad boy!

Journey Wrath of Demons