Shadows of Brimstone has arrived!

I'm scared… #ShadowsOfBrimstone #thisisonlyonebox #kickstarter

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Well…

Following the end of the kickstarter back in November 2013, it’s been a long and boring wait for my pledges to be fulfilled. But now, they have, and I have to say: I’m really overwhelmed!

I’ve had a peculiar relationship with this game, going from overwhelming enthusiasm for it during the kickstarter campaign, to severe disappointment when the core sets were delivered. I’ve played it a couple of times, and I can’t work out if I actually enjoy it or not, so it has spent a very long time on the shelf.

However!

I believe I’ve now had everything delivered, though I’m not entirely sure about a couple of things I had added in the pledge manager, so need to try and go through it all again. Some things I’ve decided to sell off, as I have pretty much everything twice, so I’ve been separating off a few bits that are easy enough to do this with, but even so – wow!

Allure of the New
In doing all of this, I’ve been surprised at how I’m actually feeling a bit better-predisposed towards it now that all of the additional material has arrived. This is probably just the allure of the new, and I’m intrigued to see whether this means I’ll be playing with it anytime soon…

It’s a bit silly, really, to want to play with some of the new stuff so soon. I have barely scratched the surface of the core sets, so I’m hardly about to start throwing something like the Ancient One into the mix! I’ve played the game a total of 8 times, according to my stats on boardgamegeek, though the last time I played was in June 2015. I think it might be interesting to do something like build up some Targa stuff, then return to Cities of Death and introduce some of the new stuff that way. Maybe.

But that said, I really like the look of those Mission Packs…

I’ve only briefly looked at the miniatures, and they don’t look that better in terms of quality than the core set stuff, which is disappointing. But I love the fact that FFP have continued to include additional bits and pieces of cardboard to help with narrative stuff. It’s one of the things I always love about their games, and has again begun to draw me back into wanting to play with this stuff once again…

At any rate, I’m hoping to start going through this stuff soon enough, and will eventually get the long-talked-about game day blog on it! Stay tuned folks!!

Eight Games of Eighth, and other thoughts

Well, then! I’m glad to see that the Codex train is still going, and while I’m a bit perplexed that they’re doing a brand new army over an existing one, I suppose it does stretch things out. Of course, everybody wants their Codex, so these releases are bound to aggravate a few. I’m surprised at the amount of hate coming from, specifically, the Dark Eldar facebook group I’m a member of, but I can kinda see their point. There are huge xenos factions like the Orks and the Tau that don’t have a book yet, while the tiny, elite imperium factions are getting more love.

It’s fantastic that there are new factions coming to the game in a really playable way, and I really enjoy seeing these corners of the 41st millennium explored, but I’m getting a bit bored with my Index armies now (specifically, my Necrons…), and feel like it’s becoming almost a chore to play with them.

I’ve specifically avoided playing anybody who can use a Codex so far, but have managed to find myself with a game against Craftworlds later in the month. From what we’ve been talking about, I feel that my Dark Kin are going to be vaporized fairly quickly, even with a fluffy list, so while I’m interested to see what Eldar can do (having never played them before), I’m also not looking forward to it due to the matchup.

It’s a really weird situation right now, to me at least. Chapter Approved was a nice addition, but hasn’t really done anything to even the balance between an Index and a Codex. But then, the only thing that can do that is Codexes for everybody.

At any rate, it’s a bit of a futile argument right now – this is the situation, let’s just get on with it!

I wanted to ramble for a bit today about my most recent game of 40k, another battle between my Dark Eldar and Robin’s Orks at my local store. It was a hilarious battle that took four hours to play just two rounds, due to the ridiculous amount of melee combat going on from Robin’s first turn!

I took the usual load of Warriors in Raiders, as well as Wracks in another Raider. I managed to get three HQs into the list, two Archons and a Haemonculus, the latter riding in his own Venom. The second Venom was given over to five Trueborn, the first time I’ve ever used those chaps, and a squad of Reavers and a Ravager rounded out the list. I will freely admit right now, that I’m not the most tactical of people, but I’ve decided that, from this year, I want to try and have more nous about me in games. I feel like I’ve mentioned this before in respect of playing X-Wing, where my usual tactics of fly around shooting stuff at random probably doesn’t make for a good game for my opponent. It’s a game, we’re supposed to have fun, but I don’t want to be that guy and ruin it for people, you know?

So anyway, faced with a mob of 30 Boyz, all of whom were pretty much on top of the relic we were fighting for, my target priority became that unit, and in my first round of shooting I managed to get rid of 22 of them. Not bad, from two Raiders full of Warriors, and a Venom full of Trueborn! It certainly helped that everybody started within rapid fire range, I have to say.

In the spirit of trying to learn from my games, then, I think I’ll ramble for a bit here whenever I play, and see if I can improve as time goes on! A lot of this is focusing on weight-of-fire as opposed to damage output, as I feel currently that Dark Eldar could be pretty good as a horde army. I mean, you could make a basic squad of ten warriors with no upgrades for 70 points, which can put out 24 shots in rapid fire range and hitting on 3+. I’ve had a lot of experimentation with different builds, but I’m currently thinking I’d like to try a sort of mass swarm of Kabalite Warriors, with occasional support from more combat-orientated units. Covens are a lot of fun to play, but I’m going to try and move away from them a little as I experiment more with Warriors. Wych Cults are going to be a whole other breed of experiment, though, and I think I could write a separate blog on that one!

I really liked the Trueborn. I’d built some for 7th Edition, but had shied away from ever using them in 8th due to the fact I wasn’t convinced about the points cost. The only benefit, to me, was that they can take much more in the way of weapons, but with an almost identical stat line to generic Warriors, were they really worth it? Turns out, I’d been thinking about it the wrong way: the fact that you could have an entire unit of special-weapons-ops, as opposed to just the one, means a lot more in the way of firepower, easily making up for those points differences.

I took a five-man squad, and popped them in a Venom. The squad had two splinter cannons, two shredders, and a Dracon with power sword and blast pistol; the Venom itself had two splinter cannons. That’s 210 points, right there. When I compared it with my ten-man Warrior squad, with splinter cannon alongside a Sybarite wielding a splinter pistol and agoniser, all inside a Raider with a dark lance, the Warrior squad still comes in at 204 points, for almost double the models.

The startling thing, to me, was just how many shots the Trueborn were consistently putting out. At optimum distance for everybody, but assuming the worst for the shredders, five men in a Venom are pumping out 27 shots (with a potential for 31), 24 of which are poison. The ten men in the Raider are capable of 24 shots at optimum distance. It’s not much difference but, when faced with a horde army, I’ll still take it!

Definitely time to build more Trueborn. But not, I think, with dark lances! Even on Trueborn, they just feel too damn fragile on infantry – the weapon is almost double the cost of the model wielding it (which is, admittedly, better than the almost-triple cost of putting one on a Warrior).

I still don’t know what to do with my Ravager though. I prefer the disintegrator cannons for the assault 3 as opposed to the dark lances which, on a vehicle, are only assault 1, even though the dark lance has the greater damage potential. However, I can never decide where to fire the damn thing, and invariably just end up having a mediocre performance, at best. Sad, really.

My Reavers did fairly well – they lasted quite well despite being rammed into a squad of Boyz on turn one, anyway! I don’t play enough Wych Cult units, so had forgotten about combat drugs on my first turn, so turn 2 I gave them adrenalight for the +1 attack (as they were already locked in combat). The arena champion making 4 attacks was pretty good, but at that point it was only the arena champion left, so I think that needs to be looked at anew! I’m considering a bigger squad but, as I said, Wych Cults will be the subject of their own blog soon enough!

So, Trueborn are worth further exploration. I need more splinter cannons in my life, and I need to figure out how to use my Ravager more effectively. I also need to stop charging my Venoms into close combat – hell, I need to stay away from close combat with Kabalite Warriors as much as possible! I keep giving Sybarites agonisers, but that really should be a last-resort thing. At 4 points, the weapon is hardly breaking my bank, after all! I was really pleased that my Haemonculus managed to get off Crucible of Malediction on both the Weirdboyz, killing one and reducing another to 1 wound, so that was a lot of fun. Unfortunately, to do so meant putting him across the board from the Wracks, so they couldn’t benefit from his buff. Wracks in general were quite poor this game, I feel – particularly as I made the decision to charge a Killa Can with one unit, meaning all of their weapons would only hit on 6s!

Target selection and target priority is going to be key, I think…

Mythos delvings

Hey everybody!
It’s time to continue the tradition of the Christmas Lovecraftian delvings, and look at some of the short stories that I’ve been reading by the light of the Christmas tree. This year, I’ve been re-reading some old favourites, as well as investigating some little things that are new to me!

Let’s start with the always-wonderful Thing on the Doorstep. I first read this about five years ago now, and it was one of the few Lovecraftian tales that genuinely chilled me. It tells the story of Edward Derby and his ill-fated marriage to Asenath Waite, one of the Innsmouth Waites who has some very peculiar ideas about transferring consciousness (among other stuff). Over the course of the tale, Edward Derby becomes increasingly insane, it seems, convinced that his wife has some kind of hold over him, only to be revealed that she has indeed – through some foul sorcerous deeds – been taking control of her weak-willed husband. Even a marital separation can’t prevent Asenath from possessing Edward, and she eventually seems to have taken permanent control of his body. It’s up to the narrator to sort things out, by shooting his best friend before it’s too late – but what on earth is that thing crawling on his doorstep..?

It’s one of my favourite of his tales, with a very definite tie in to the Arkham line of board games etc – I remember a game of Arkham Horror where I had both Asenath and Herbert West as allies, making for a particularly hilarious game as I thought of the mischief each would no doubt be plotting behind my hero’s back! I also remember playing a game of Eldritch Horror with Charlie Kane travelling the globe and using Asenath for spell-casting… Anyway!

A short tale, The Statement of Randolph Carter is a bit of a spooky tale that seems to be told as a kind of confession. It concerns the nocturnal adventures of the titular Randolph and his occultist friend Harley Warren, as they attempt to access the underworld following Warren’s researches in a peculiar Arabic tome. Harley goes deep into a tomb in a graveyard somewhere near a cypress swamp, and screams for Randolph to flee before never being seen again. Randolph, for his part, loses part of his memory of the event, and the story is effectively his testimony as to what happened to Harley in the swamp. It is the first time the character of Randolph Carter appears in a story by Lovecraft, though he would reappear in later writings – including the famous Dream Cycle.

Continuing the link with the Arkham games now, The Unnamable is a short little tale that is set in the graveyard of the New England town, and details a debate between two gents on the nature of the supernatural. It has the hallmarks of a sort of campfire ghost story to it, and references several locations within the town that will be familiar to fans of the boardgame as being locations to be investigated. Notably also, the narrator is again Randolph Carter.

Herbert West – Reanimator is another classic that I’ve read before, chronicling the black-hearted career of Herbert West and his attempts to return people from the dead. Notably, Herbert and the narrator attended Miskatonic University in Arkham, the first time this venerable institution was mentioned in a short story by Lovecraft. West and his assistant have a series of near-successes across six short installments, each ending with a particularly gruesome climax. The tale had been serialized, which leads to some slightly annoying recaps at the start of each section, but the story itself is just wonderful gothic horror. We see West, always keen to have the freshest corpse possible, actually kill someone in order to then bring him back from death, before finally being abducted off into the bowels of the earth by his failed experiments of the past. Wonderful stuff!

Also serialized was the short story The Lurking Fear, which is a sort of classic haunted-house-on-the-hill type of tale. The house had been shunned by those living in its shadow, who were convinced some fell beast stalked within. The intrepid narrator attempts to get to the bottom of the matter with predictably morbid and horrific results. Again, it has that sort of sensationalized ending to each of its four parts, and while I wouldn’t say it was quite as classic as Herbert West – Reanimator, it was nevertheless a decent enough read!

He is a weird little tale, which is similar in parts to Cool Air that I read a couple of years back. The narrator follows a mysterious gentleman who appears to have preserved his life for more than a few centuries, and proceeds to show him some eldritch magic or other, including visions of the past and future New York, with dire warnings about the rise of the Chinese that, unfortunately, shows some of Lovecraft’s darker side.

Weird, but then, I suppose that’s the point of these stories!

Cities in Ruin!

Hey everybody!
It’s the first game day of 2018! It’s also the first game day in quite some time! With several life-changes going on these last few months, it’s been difficult to devote any real time to board games, but as per my Boxing Day tradition, I managed to get Eldritch Horror to the table, with predictably wonderful results! I sat down to no less than three games this time around, as the game proved to be a huge hit with my SO Jemma (and, it takes so much time to set up, once it’s there you might as well settle in for an afternoon!), and for the middle game we tried out the latest small box expansion, Cities in Ruin!

Eldritch Horror Cities in Ruin

This expansion brings one of my favourite Ancient Ones to the game, Shudde M’ell. The world-cracking king of the Cthonians originally appeared in the Dunwich Horror expansion for Arkham Horror, and of course was created by Brian Lumley in his short story Cement Surroundings. One of the non-Lovecraftian creations that has managed to retain significant traction among the mythos today, it’s also one of my favourites to go up against in Arkham Horror, so I was really looking forward to seeing how he’d be implemented in Eldritch Horror.

Like Yig and Ithaqua before him, Shudde M’ell has become so much more vicious in his Eldritch Horror incarnation!!

Eldritch Horror Cities in Ruin

Starting at 15 doom, Shudde M’ell looks like he should be fine, starting at the same point as Azathoth from the base game. However, true to form, he gets to destroy points on the board, which is where this expansion becomes a bit of a beast.

Eldritch Horror Cities in Ruin

To start with, Rome is ‘devastated’ – the city is wiped off the map, and all that remains are crumbling ruins. During set-up, three eldritch tokens are placed on the doom track and, when the doom counter reaches those, there is the chance that more cities will meet a similar fate.

Of course, they’re not really gone in the sense that you just skip over them if you’re moving through Europe, or something. When you arrive at a devastated location, rather than drawing from the normal deck you instead draw one of the Devastation cards, complex encounters that can net you useful stuff from poking about in the ruins. I found these to be particularly interesting, as the card will present you with a choice, and you can actually choose to resolve the failure part instead of the pass part, each of these then involving some kind of test with rewards for passing and detriments for failing. We’ve seen a similar thing with some Other World encounters, where you can still fail even when you passed the first part of the encounter, but even so, it’s interesting to see the depth going on in the game right now.

The other deck is, of course, the Disaster deck, which is drawn when finding out where on the map is going to be hit next. Shudde M’ell has got three in-built disasters in terms of the doom track anyway, but there are Mythos cards and other ways that can bring about Disasters, which range from destroying cities to removing all of the travel tokens from the game, as sea voyages become too perilous. It’s an added dimension to the game that I really enjoyed, especially if you’re relying on a specific location to buff a skill, or gain a spell, etc. I think it’s a tremendous addition, and I’m happy to say that there are additional Prelude cards included in the box to allow you to use the Disaster deck even if you aren’t trying to fend off Shudde M’ell. Excellent stuff!

Eldritch Horror Cities in Ruin

The investigators are more from the Arkham stable, I particularly liked Bob Jenkins and his ability to trade items with anybody on the board. We also get new assets and artifacts, conditions and spells, as well as new encounter cards and mythos cards that all help to bring in the feel of a monster lurking beneath the surface of the world – though without being quite so overt that you could still shuffle these into the deck and play against Yig, for instance. There are also Expedition encounter cards that make Shanghai and London possible locations, which I quite enjoyed – especially considering there is a Disaster that destroys these locations as well!

All in all, Cities in Ruin is another excellent expansion in what is becoming possibly the best game line Fantasy Flight is publishing right now! It’s certainly my top board game of the moment, and I am forever just bowled-over at how amazing these expansions are. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the expansions for Arkham Horror as much as the next man, but I feel that these for Eldritch Horror are designed with such care and attention that every single one of them has been so much more than simply, “more of the same”.

Definitely worth picking up if you enjoy this game!!