April 2022 retrospective

2022 seems to be such a weird year, so far. We’re now 4 months in, and time seems to be moving really strangely, like each month is taking longer than normal, but overall the year is already one-third over. Weird.

As far as my blog is concerned, April has seen a pretty definite shift from Warhammer 40k into Star Wars, as I have almost entirely shifted gears into my first sci fi love. I’ve been watching the movies again, of course, which perhaps explains a lot of this, but I seem to be in something of a hobby slump and Star Wars has taken over almost entirely. Of course, I have been doing the odd bits and pieces, mainly with the Black Legion miniatures that I began to work on at the beginning of the month. I was trying to get the squad of 5 legionaries, plus the Sorcerer, finished off, and things were going quite well for a time, but then my hobby energy seemed to just grind to a halt.

I also had a game of 40k, trying out my Tau army for the first time, and it was actually pretty nice. I finally bought a Riptide battle suit, something I had wanted for a long time, and I built up a Ghostkeel after the game, but again, the hobby energy has ground to a halt.

In an attempt to switch gears with things, I’ve once again turned my attentions to terrain, and have done a little more work on the galvanic magnavent, but switching projects like this has also not helped and I’m now at the point where I’m pretty much giving up for the time being. I mean, I always come back to it, so it’s not like I’m going to burn my armies, or sell everything off, but I think maybe a few days off completely might help to get me motivated once again.

In the meantime, I have found myself with plenty of other gaming outlets!

My wife Jemma has suggested we have a regular game night, and so we’ve had a couple of games of Elder Sign, and (so far) one game of the Star Wars LCG. Elder Sign is something of an old favourite, so that was all well and good, but then the Star Wars LCG almost did her in! However, things are looking positive for more of that, so I’m pleased there. I’ve started trying to pick up some of the Force packs that I missed out on back in the day, so I’m hoping I will be able to have a complete collection for the game to enjoy in due course.

I seem to have taken a fairly large pivot away from Games Workshop at the minute though, which I’m finding somewhat curious. For instance, the new Necromunda: Ash Wastes box has gone on pre-order today, and my interest had begun to wane until the point where I saw the price last week and decided that I’m actually not going to bother. I mean, if it’s still available in a few months down the line, then I might pick it up if I’ve gotten back into that of course, but at the moment, I’ve been thinking that I’ve actually got a lot of stuff, most of it is stuff that I’m seemingly never getting round to doing anything with, so why just add yet more stuff to that pile? My Ossiarch Bonereapers army has been painted up for almost 12 months now, and I have done absolutely nothing with those forces in that time. I have so much stuff, and the return on that investment is slim by comparison that I think it’s time to implement a change!

I said that I’m not going to just clear everything out, but it is making me think a lot more critically of my plastic addiction, and I wonder if this shift might well be good for me in that I’ll begin to finally downsize, and get myself under control! Though whenever I have tried to do this in the past, I will inevitably end up with still huge amounts of stuff!! But we shall see.

However: Star Wars!

I seem to be really riding a wave at the minute, and have been back delving into all sorts of magic and delights, as I have embarked on reading a whole bunch of Prequel stories, and have been generally wallowing wholeheartedly in the galaxy far, far away. I’ve been loving the movies, delving a lot into the background stuff once more, and have been reading a lot of the genesis of the original trilogy, which is something that I find really fascinating. There’ll be plenty of stuff coming out on the blog here as well, not just as I read through the Prequel stuff, so I’m very excited about that!

I’ve even started watching Rebels again…

I read this short book over last weekend, a YA book that was published to tie in with Rogue One that tells a prequel story behind Baze Malbus and Chirrut Îmwe, the guardians of the Temple of Kyber that we meet in the movie. It is set during the Imperial occupation, so it isn’t that much of a prequel, if I’m honest – we meet them when the Temple has already closed, and so don’t really know much about their lives before that point.

They’re both trying to help out the downtrodden people of Jedha, and take part in raids on the Imperial supply depots to get medicine for an orphanage, and mechanical parts etc. When Saw Gerrera arrives on the moon, he tries to enlist their help in his cause, but while they at first resist his call, an Imperial reprisal attack against the orphanage spurs them on to throw their lot in with the Partisan leader.

They take part in a couple of military actions against the Imperials, and eventually are able to evacuate the children from the orphanage at the end of the book. Presumably so that we don’t think too much about a group of 30-something kids also being vaporised when the Death Star is tested.

I think I would have preferred a book that tells us more about the religious movements that call Jedha home prior to the Imperial occupation, and to learn more about what exactly the Temple of Kyber was all about. I suppose that’s just me and my interest in these things – it would probably be above and beyond the remit of a novel like this, though. It was fun to see Chirrut and Baze in action, and I think it did a good job of explaining why Saw had come to Jedha. All in all, it was fine for what it was. Maybe one day though, we’ll be able to learn more about these Force sects and how they work…

Next month, though, I shall be embarking on an entirely different project, as I start reading the Witcher novels as well! I’ve already read the first two anthologies, The Last Wish and Sword of Destiny, and will be reading Blood of Elves alongside Dave and Jenn, so do keep an eye out for that, as it promises to be something very special!

I’m also hoping to continue with The Forgotten Age, as I haven’t played any more with that since the initial play through of the opening scenarios in that campaign. I’m expecting to do badly, but still!

All in all, then, April has been a strange month, but I’m hopeful that May will be much more productive.

Star Wars LCG!

Hey everybody,
Following on from yesterday’s game day blog about my rekindled love for the now-defunct Star Wars LCG, I’ve been taking a look at all of the expansions for the game that we have, and in particular looking at what each cycle brought to the table in the order that they came out. It’s interesting to me, to see when certain cards were published, and to a lesser extent, how they fared in the meta.

The card game had a total of six cycles published over its duration, and we also had five deluxe expansions – including one that gave us a multi-player variant. Let’s take a look at what each cycle brought to the game…

The Hoth Cycle (2012-13)
The first cycle of the game introduced many Hoth objective sets for the various factions, although there was more of a specific focus on Rebels vs Imperials, given the nature of that battle. We see a variety of bonuses available for decks which include Hoth objectives, with card effects slanted towards a player having a lot of these cards in their deck. It isn’t all about the Rebels and the Empire, however, as we have a host of cards for the other factions that don’t necessarily take in any notice of the battle on the ice planet. Smugglers and Spies get Renegade Squadron, though, which was a force led by Col Serra in the defence of Echo Base, comprised of smugglers and scoundrels. The Sith faction gets the super star destroyer Executor, which is a shocking card, while Scum & Villainy get a bunch of new bounty hunters to augment those already in the Edge of Darkness deluxe.

When evaluated as a whole, the cycle has got a lot of interesting cards, even from outside of the Hoth theme. However, I think more than any other cycle from any other card game, the Hoth Cycle is one of those that begs to be played in order – by which I mean, adding cards to your decks in the order that the packs came out. There isn’t power creep, per se, but the theme of establishing the base, the Imperials arriving, and the desperate flight from the ice world is captured really quite beautifully in the way these cards came out. It’s one of my biggest gaming regrets, not being able to play this game as it was published.

Echoes of the Force (2014)
The second cycle had something of a focus on Force users, and introduced a lot of fairly powerful cards, particularly for the Jedi faction. However, all factions have an interaction with the Force struggle, from Scum & Villainy capturing Force cards, to Smugglers counting the top card of their deck towards the Force struggle, it’s great to see a load of innovative ways for the various factions to stay relevant in a Force-centric set. We get a number of lightsaber forms as enhancement cards, and a lot of the factions pull characters from the Dark Forces series, such as Kyle Katarn and Jerec. The Empire is creating the Dark Trooper project, and we get more of a focus on vehicles from the Rebellion. Which is interesting, because vehicles are something of a focus for the next cycle, too. We also get Mara Jade and Winter, which is very nice indeed!

Rogue Squadron (2015)
With a focus on starfighters and dogfights, the third cycle introduced the Pilot mechanic as a way to essentially crew friendly vehicles. Doing so can grant vehicles bonus abilities, or switch on the effects of the pilot cards themselves. We get a lot of new starfighters, as you’d expect, and at times it feels like the game has crossed over with X-Wing, as a lot of the pilots from that game are featured in card form, Howlrunner, Mauler Mithel, etc. We get new versions of Han and Luke, with the Pilot keyword, but it’s not all about the small ships. Indeed, we get Grand Admiral Thrawn in this cycle!

The Endor Cycle (2015-16)
The fourth cycle once again provided a sense of location, but the biggest change was Mission cards, which are played as objectives under your opponent’s control, waiting for you to attack them. They generate no resources for your opponent, but count as objectives in every way, and when they are destroyed, you get a bonus (in addition to the usual stuff). Given that we’re on Endor, there is an Ewok subtheme with a load of neutral objective sets that contain the furry aliens. The way that Endor objectives work is also really interesting, in that cards interact with how many are on both sides of the table, and it can sometimes be possible to shift your damage to your opponent as some card effects don’t specify who owns the cards.

Opposition (2016-17)
The fifth cycle pitted pairs of factions together in opposition, Jedi vs Sith, Rebels vs Imperials, and Smugglers vs Scum. While we have plenty of cards that are drawn from the movies and expanded universe, we also begin to see characters from Rebels join the fray, starting with Ahsoka Tano. We also have a fairly interesting development in terms of faction-specific Fate cards, which is a way of emphasizing the struggle between the paired opponents. It’s a really interesting way to emphasize the theme of the cycle, but I also like the fact that we still get stuff like the Pilot mechanic, ensuring that the game hasn’t completely forgotten about its own expansions.

Oh yeah – and the Empire gets a Death Star card…

Alliances (2017-18)
The final cycle sought to bring factions together, and gave new Affiliation cards that paired the factions in specific ways, with bonuses when you adhere to the deckbuilding requirements in this way. So for example, by including five Smugglers objective sets, and five Jedi or neutral objective sets, you fulfil the requirements for the new Smugglers affiliation, Desperate Allies, which grants the bonus of removing an additional focus token from a unit after you refresh. With a focus on mixing factions in this way, there are many cards across the cycle that have pseudo-multi class abilities, and there are a few copies of the enhancement card Necessary Allies that grants a resource that matches any affiliation, thanks to the Influence keyword.

More importantly, though, this cycle features cards that pull from Rogue One, Rebels, and the Darth Vader comic series. So we get Doctor Aphra, Jyn Erso and Ezra Bridger, along with all the usual suspects, but we do continue to get the more familiar faces from the original trilogy, and a few new faces that are drawn from FFG’s RPG, which would have been so exciting if this hadn’t been the final cycle! It’s nice also to see continued support for stuff like Endor and Hoth objectives, and cards that have been printed throughout the game’s run continued to appear in objective sets right to the end, allowing for a great level of consistency across the whole game. It’s one of the reasons why I love this game so much, and find the deckbuilding particularly fascinating.

I am currently in love with this game, and I can’t wait to play it more, and more, and more! I hope to get some more games in soon, and I shall doubtless be waffling on again here in due course!!

Star Wars: The Card Game – a renaissance

Hey everybody,
For game day today, I’m once more going to talk about the Star Wars LCG, my new-found obsession, something that I never thought I’d say again! I was really into this game back when it first came out, but despite forcing several different people to play it with me, nobody really wanted to play it much, so it ended up being shunted into the attic and just left there. However, after a passing comment to Jemma about it when we were re-watching the original trilogy over Easter, she’s proven to be more receptive than literally anybody else I’ve ever talked about it with! So we had a game last Saturday and, while it wasn’t exactly brilliant, it’s most definitely promising!

I’d already put together 6 decks, one for each faction, very much in the spirit of just mashing objective sets together and hoping for a good time. Well, I suppose some thought did go into them, but even so. Jemma decided she wanted to play as the Empire, so I decided I would stick to form and go with the Rebels, rather than either of the other two light-side factions.

Now, I’m going to say this right now: this game can be very confusing, even for seasoned card game players. For someone like my wife, who is not all that into Star Wars, and isn’t really a card gamer whatsoever, I think I lost her almost immediately with my explanation of how the game works. There is so much to think about, and there is a lot that is different from other games, that it can be quite a minefield to negotiate. She also insisted on playing it as normally as possible, so we had the whole Force Struggle thing, Edge Battles, no open hands, etc etc. I think she grew frustrated quite early on, and I began to feel like it was going to be a waste of time.

As the game went on, though, I think she got into things a little. The rules around paying for cards, and refreshing cards, all of that seemed to go quite smoothly after a while, and as so often happens with this game, it did come down to the wire. I think I made one mis-play that meant Jemma won on her next turn, rather than me dealing one additional point of damage to the third dark side objective to win (I’d played a card on it to allow me to draw cards when it produced resources, and so held back a bit as I wanted the card draw – but the Death Star dial was at 10 and was ticking on twice per turn, so…)

The bright spot on all of this is that Jemma has agreed that there is a pain barrier to go through in order to learn a new game, and just because you don’t enjoy the first run through doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ever play it again. I’d thought that perhaps we should have played other card games first – even going back to Magic for a time – but anyway. I think we’re tentatively going to be playing the game every other week, in an effort for her to get into it (and for me to get back into it, I suppose!)

I can’t say that the Rebel Alliance is my favourite faction to play. That was in part due to the fact that I wasn’t drawing very many good cards, I suppose, but I have a feeling that the rebels play better with some of the fancier cards from later cycles, particularly when you bring in the Pilot mechanic. In an effort to keep things straightforward, though, I was trying to keep things fairly basic, with obvious plays that help to play off each other.

I think we had a couple of mistakes, namely that Jemma was focusing cards like Tarkin to generate resources, then also using him to attack me, but there was quite the situation set up whereby she was able to one-shot my objectives thanks to Tarkin making them -1 defence, and Orbital Bombardment giving every unit an additional blast icon, which made the Death Squadron Star Destroyer a beast. So between the good plays from across the table, and my own lacklustre cards being drawn from the Rebel deck, I think I was lucky to be able to do anything in the way of damage, really!

I am glad that Jemma has agreed to play it again, though – and she seems to want to get into it, I think, although that may be wishful thinking on my part! The fact that she won notwithstanding, I think when card plays like that come together, and it becomes quite clear what you need to do to play the game, it can be quite exciting. I’ve been re-examining my Rebel deck, and have yet to really come up with any combinations like that. Which might, of course, be the point. If I can get a number of fighters out, I should be able to deal a fair bit of blast damage, but on the whole I have a lot of pretty average stuff, and not a great deal of obvious plays. But then, I suppose that could be the idea of the Rebels being a rag-tag bunch, and it might be symbolic of the fact they aren’t able to bring overwhelming firepower to bear. I don’t have any of the capital ships included in the deck, but I do think that further down the line I might be switching out some objective sets. Not for the purposes of power-gaming, of course, but more for variety – I quite like the look of the Walex Blissex set, but I currently have no space for him.

On this note, I think the deckbuilding is one of the more fascinating aspects of this game, and I really enjoy the fact that you don’t just replace cards on a one-for-one basis. It really makes you think about how they’re going to work within the deck, even if you don’t have a plan for the deck as a whole just yet! It’s something that I particularly like in the Jedi deck that I’ve enjoyed playing with (when I had the opportunity!) Due to the way Edge Battles and Force struggles work, I think there’s always a use for a card, whether you throw away something you deem “worthless” for its pips in the Edge Battle, or whether that unit whose only worth comes from a “when played” trigger, commit him to the Force and leave him off to the side. It’s a really well-designed game, and I think this is really evident when it becomes difficult to build a deck due to the embarrassment of riches!

So, let’s talk about the decks for a minute. The Rebel Alliance deck doesn’t have any duplicated objective sets, which does mean that it lacks somewhat in consistency. Looking through the cards in the deck, there isn’t a lot in the way of duplication either – a couple of Twist of Fate cards, a couple of Hidden Outpost cards, and a couple of Rebel Assault cards. There are a lot of starfighters – a couple of X-Wings, some B-Wings, an A-Wing and a Y-Wing, and there are a lot of the kind of generic trooper types.

There is a slight theme that comes out from inclusion of several Yavin-IV cards, although it’s only slight, and I think it only really works off having General Dodonna out to draw cards off it. I think there are a total of six objective sets that form what I’m considering to be the core of this deck, with a myriad of starfighters and the like. The remaining four are all candidates that are, to some extent or another, ripe for swapping out – the Mon Mothma set, the Leia set, the General Madine set, and the Winter set. Leia and Mon Mothma however are there for their iconic status, and Madine is a very useful resource generator. Winter, however, is simply there because I love the character. So it’s a thematic deck from the point of view that it shows us a lot of the Rebellion, not because it will play the game necessarily well! I do want to play with it some more before I go changing too much up, as I think it will be instructional to see how things work out. However, I can see myself going much more heavily into the whole starfighter / Pilot thing, rather than having the mix of commandos and spies that is in there currently.

By contrast, while the Empire deck only has one duplicated objective set (the Tarkin set), there is a much more general feel of cross-pollination somehow, as themes like recurring troopers come out fairly well, and the aforementioned play with making that star destroyer into an objective-killer. It’s interesting because that combo wasn’t something that had occurred to me when building the deck, but clearly is something that comes out quite well.

Now, I mentioned in my previous blog about this game how I had stopped buying Force packs after the fourth cycle, so there are two cycles of cards that I never picked up back in the day. Well, as will come to a surprise to nobody, I’m sure, I have now started trying to find these packs, and have managed to get a hold of six, between the Opposition and the Alliances cycles. I think I might be struggling to get at least one of them, as there were a set of new affiliation cards that were seemingly snapped up and so have disappeared from the market, but I do have some hope that I’ll be able to get a decent number of these things before too long. It’s exciting to think that there are some cards in these packs featuring characters from Rogue One, and even the Rebels stuff, as I have recently started to watch that show again.

As I also mentioned last time, I do like the fact that the card pool is now a finite resource from which to draw, and so there is a real prospect that everything will see play, as decks are tweaked. Of course, it’s also possible that decks might stay the same forever, but even if Jemma has no inclination to deck-build, I think I’ll be tinkering for a long time to come, as I swap out the Leia objective set for something else, and so on.

Before I draw this to a close, I also wanted to briefly mention the fact that we currently don’t have any kind of Star Wars card game in general circulation. The situation with FFG at the moment is very odd, and I think I need to take a look into what’s going on there before I begin a massive speculation, however we have Legion (a tabletop miniatures game now outsourced), X-Wing (another miniatures game, also, I believe, outsourced), and the RPG (yet again, outsourced). I don’t really know if FFG have the licence to make Star Wars games anymore, but given how Asmodee seem to be trying to run the company into the ground, it wouldn’t surprise me. I have read that there are still plans for board and card games into 2023, but as that article went up around the same time as the world started locking down for Covid, I would imagine that such plans have been well and truly pushed back, as production schedules scramble to get back on track. Whether we will ever see another card game will remain to be seen, though it will be interesting to see how such a thing could be implemented, given the well-defined eras of Star Wars and so on. It strikes me as really weird, though, how there just isn’t a Star Wars card game being made anymore. I’ll need to take a better look into this kind of thing.

At any rate, I’m just really glad that I’ll be able to play the LCG once again!

Star Wars: Darth Plagueis

The Summer of Star Wars has begun!!

The novel begins 35 years before the events of The Phantom Menace, when we see Darth Plagueis and his master, the Bith Darth Tenebrous on the world of Bal’demnic, examining a deposit of cortosis ore. Keen to exploit the natural resistance to lightsabers in the ore, as another step in the plan of the Sith to overthrow the Jedi, they are nevertheless forced to flee when an underground explosion is triggered. Plagueis uses the event to his advantage, and kills Tenebrous by hurling debris from the blast upon his master.

Plagueis escapes the planet by stowing away aboard a ship, killing the crew but taking a droid 11-4D back with him to his home planet of Muunilinst, where he goes about as Hego Damask, CEO of Damask Holdings. As Damask, he holds annual gatherings on the moon Sojourn, where he plays power-broker among the galaxy’s most powerful beings. On Sojourn, he learns that the company who provided Tenebrous with the information on the cortosis deposit, Subtext Mining, has links with Pax Teem, the Senator for Malastare. Representatives of Subtext tell him of a massive lode of plasma on the planet Naboo, which will prove particularly lucrative, in exchange for their lives.

Also on Sojourn, Plagueis is attacked by a dark acolyte known as Darth Venamis, who claims to have been sent by Tenebrous. Plagueis overpowers Venamis, and forces the other to poison himself. Plagueis then takes his comatose body for further experimentation into midi-chlorians and prolonging life. Learning of more potential acolytes, he hunts down each one and kills them.

On Naboo, Damask and the Trade Federation enter into a deal with Bon Tapalo to gain control over the plasma reserves in exchange for support with Tapalo’s election as King of Naboo. Plagueis learns of the potential for an ally in Palpatine, the son of one of the noble families who has defied his father and the isolationist politics of many on Naboo. Plagueis begins to court Palpatine as a potential apprentice, when he senses a great deal of ability in the way the young man is able to shield himself in the Force. Plagueis manipulates Palpatine into killing his entire family with the Force, and promptly takes him as his apprentice, naming him Darth Sidious.

Eleven years later, Palpatine has elevated himself to the position of ambassador for Naboo, and with the help of new allies Sate Pestage and Kinman Doriana, he is able to instigate the assassination of Naboo’s current senator, Vidar Kim. Meanwhile, Plagueis continues his experimentation in the Force, and makes contact with the clonemasters of Kamino, with the possibility of creating a cloned army of Yinchorr warriors. Attempting to increase his own knowledge of the Dark Side, Sidious visits Dathomir and there is given a Zabrak child as a gift – he sends the child to Mustafar to be trained as a weapon of the Dark Side.

At a secret ceremony to initiate Damask’s colleague Larsh Hill into the Order of the Canted Circle, Plagueis is ambushed by Maladian assassins and almost killed – only the arrival of Sate Pestage and Sidious allows the Muun to escape with his life. The assassination was orchestrated by Pax Teem, and so Sidious unleashes his fury on the Gran Senator, killing his entire entourage. Plagueis goes into a sort of retirement on Sojourn, forced to use a transpiratory mask in order to assist with his breathing. His escape makes him even more determined to conquer death, however. In his absence, it falls to Sidious to further the plans of the Sith.

Twenty years pass, and Palpatine is a well-respected Senator, remarkable for having never been involved in scandal or corruption. He continues to court the great and the good, and in secret he makes contact with Nute Gunray of the Trade Federation, promising him wealth and power in exchange for an alliance. When Sidious is able to elevate Gunray to the post of Viceroy in the Trade Federation, the Neimoidian becomes indebted to Sidious and so is easily persuaded to order the blockade and invasion of Naboo.

For years, Palpatine and Jedi Master Dooku had something of an acquaintance, which grows further when the latter’s disaffection with the Jedi Order increases. From Dooku, Palpatine learns of the existence of Anakin Skywalker, a child seemingly born from the Force itself, and both he and Plagueis become obsessed with learning more about him. Years previously, at roughly the same time Anakin was born, Sidious and Plagueis had performed a Sith ritual in an attempt to truly become masters over the Force, and Plagueis had sensed the Force acquiesce before his might – now, however, it seems that the Force has in fact fought back, producing the long-prophesied Chosen One who will restore balance to the Force.

Palpatine is able to manipulate Queen Amidala of Naboo to call for a vote of no confidence in Chancellor Valorum, precipitating the election of Palpatine and, as they had planned, the subsequent naming of Hego Damask as co-chancellor. On the eve of the vote, the two Sith celebrate their coming victory even as Amidala returns to Naboo in an unexpected move. Sidious is able to catch his master off-guard, however, and savagely uses the Force to cripple and then kill Plagueis. Despite his victory over his old master, however, Sidious feels oddly hollow – he later discovers that at the same time, Darth Maul had been killed on Naboo.

Soon after his election, Palpatine meets Dooku, who had left the Order following the death of his old apprentice, Qui-Gon Jinn. The two discuss a potential alliance in broad terms, as they both wish to tear down the Republic and replace it with something far greater. The book ends with Supreme Chancellor Palpatine meeting with Obi-Wan and Anakin in his office on Coruscant, thanking them personally once more for their involvement in liberating Naboo.

I love this book. It is so huge in terms of its scope, that despite that almost thousand word summary, I have barely done any justice to it at all. I’ve read this one before, of course, around the time my eldest daughter was born, and while the opportunities for reading were scarce back then, I remember being wholly drawn into the story. It succeeds in bringing together the story of Palpatine’s rise to the post of Supreme Chancellor, as well as covering his training as a Sith, while along the way hitting almost every single beat from the established lore around the Prequels. I think I was a bit disappointed when I first read it, when the story started to dance in and out of the plethora of other books that take place at this time – there’s plenty of “oh, you just missed him!” and “Plagueis was just out of shot in the Senate” etc, which does wear thin after a while. But there is equally a lot of “cut scenes” from, in particular, The Phantom Menace, where we see stuff that was taking place behind the scenes. As such, I think things are balanced out fairly well, so I can’t really complain. Plus the worst offender, as I seemed to recall it, wasn’t as bad as I’d remembered – the moment where Lorn Pavan delivers the holocron to Palpatine.

Of course, for all that the novel is a huge monster, I was still left wanting more. While the novel shows us the rise of both Sidious the Sith Lord and Palpatine the politician, most of the book is spent on the political side, with not a great deal spent with Sidious. There’s enough, for sure, but I think I would have preferred to get more of the lore of Sith training.

The famous “creation of Anakin” also happens off-screen, during one of the time jumps. That was a bit jarring, to me, as it was surely an event worth depicting? As it is, it is referenced a few times and the dots are joined when Anakin is brought to Coruscant. I did like that bit, at least – the frenzy of both Sith Lords amid all of their political manoeuvring as they discover the Force has created a being to potentially counteract their plans.

However, we do get a lot of Darth Plagueis, and a lot of Hego Damask – the first two-thirds of the book are just a delight, as we see the depth of the plans the Muun has hatched. His experiments with Yinchorri as a perfect army going awry, his courting Sifo-Dyas and the Kaminoans, the way that his plots almost cannibalise each other as he uses his position to back so many different beings, including Gardulla and Jabba, at times it can be difficult – and I think, reading it the first time when I was juggling new parent duties, a lot of this either didn’t sink in, or I wasn’t able to retain it in the same way, and so ended up missing out on some bits. With the full extent of the web laid out, though, it was just a joy to read through.

Throughout the book, Luceno is able to not only hit the necessary story beats that are perhaps required from a story in this time period, telling the story of the rise of Palpatine, but he also weaves so many references into the plot that it’s quite a joy, really. The political landscape is developed really quite beautifully as the story moves along, and we see how the impact of things like the growing presence of the Trade Federation, and the dominance of commercial interests achieved in the Senate through seating their client worlds. The way Luceno is able to take something like the line from the opening crawl of episode 1 about taxation of the Free Trade Zones, and spin it into an intelligent story that actually helps to set up the movie so perfectly – it’s something he’d done previously with Cloak of Deception, but I’ll never grow tired of reading this man’s work, as it all just dovetails so beautifully.

There is also the short story The Tenebrous Way that takes place between the first couple of chapters of the book. We see the death of Darth Tenebrous from his own point of view, and learn that he had in fact mastered the Sith technique of essence transfer, creating maxi-chlorians as a kind of retrovirus to contain his essence, and would use these to infect a nearby host. The idea being that he would infect the Chosen One, and become an immortal Sith, with the loss of any power of foresight as the price. However, he is forced to infect Plagueis to wait for the Chosen One, but soon realises that Plagueis never met the Chosen One before his own death, so removes his maxi-chlorians from Plagueis’ body and discovers his own mummified corpse – and realises that he has doomed himself to an eternal life of repetition.

It’s a cute little story that gives us perhaps more background than we ever needed. Darth Tenebrous and his maxi-chlorians are almost comical, although there is a moment of almost-pathos when he realises that he has actually failed, because Plagueis never met Anakin. One of those throwaway stories that doesn’t really add anything (although we do get a bit more of Plagueis’ master, and when are we otherwise going to learn more about him?) But it’s kinda fun, regardless.

Finally, we have the short story Restraint, also by Luceno. It’s a Darth Maul story that shows some of his time as a trainee on the planet Orsis, which is alluded to during the novel but never really fleshed-out. While one would hardly be missing much by not reading this, it’s always good to get a Maul story because they seem pretty scant, really. Maul is training with the Faleen combat expert Trezza, but others at the academy on Orsis grow sceptical of his abilities, even though Sidious has commanded his pupil to show restraint, particularly in his use of the dark side.

The Mandalorian mercenary Meltch has deduced Maul has a connection to Dathomir, and so tells Mother Talzin about him. The Nightsisters then attempt to abduct Maul, but the Zabrak simply believes this to be a test devised by Sidious. Meltch has double crossed the Nightsisters by then telling the Rattataki mercenary Kirske about it, and so he shows up hoping to capture some Nightsisters for the arena on his home world. It all ends with a bloodbath, as Sidious shows up to reclaim Maul, whom he then orders to kill everybody at the academy.

I think the story is most interesting for building up more of Maul’s character in the pre-Phantom Menace timeline. We get hints of it during the novel, but Maul is somewhat dissatisfied with his position, being kept in the dark by Sidious and unsure of why he is being trained, etc. In this short story, he outright asks his master “what am I to you?”, which I think is a great way of showing how different the nature of Sith apprenticeship is. Of course, part of this does seem to have stemmed also from the curious decision to have Darth Plagueis survive for so long – I guess it would be a different relationship if Sidious were the Master when training Maul, but as it stands, we find ourselves with a surfeit of Sith.

Not essential, of course, but it’s still nice to have these kinds of side-stories that add in just a little bit more to the overall story. I’d not read Restraint previously, and in fact was not aware of it until quite recently. There’s another Maul short story that I’ve recently discovered, also by Luceno, set during the events of Episode I, and I’m looking forward to seeing what that’s about.

Next up, however, we’ve got some graphic novels on the horizon!

Summer of Star Wars!

I’ve been thinking lately about Star Wars legends, specifically the Prequel era books and comics that I grew up with back in the day. While the movies were coming out, Dark Horse Comics and Del Rey were publishing a load of good stuff that I really enjoy. Some of the novels I have only read once, when they were initially published, while others have been read and re-read so often that I’ve lost track. There are plenty of comics and graphic novels that tell the tales of the Clone Wars better, in my view, than the cartoon series, which often disappointed me. So it’s about time that I once again delved into these books, and chronicled my reading adventures here on the blog! Along the way, I’ll also be sharing my thoughts on the films, to continue the narrative being told, although I have already re-watched them (doing so has, in fact, inspired me to do this massive re-read!)

Now, I’m not going to attempt to read everything that was published in the Prequel era timeframe, because there were some really boring books among the gems. All told, I think I’ve got around 35 pieces of media to work my way through, starting 67 years before A New Hope with James Luceno’s Darth Plagueis. This one I actually read for the first time only quite recently, but as it is the starting point for the whole thing, and it really was an excellent book, so I want to read it again.  

The full timeline of what I’m going for is presented below, and I’ll keep checking back in to update this with links to my blogs as I go.

The Tenebrous Way
Darth Plagueis

Darth Maul: Restraint

Jedi Council: Acts of War
Republic: Prelude to Rebellion
Darth Maul: Saboteur
Darth Maul

Cloak of Deception
Darth Maul: Shadow Hunter
Episode I: The Phantom Menace
Darth Maul: Endgame
Republic: Outlander
Republic: Emissaries to Malastare

Republic: Twilight

Republic: The Hunt for Aurra Sing
Republic: Darkness
Republic: The Stark Hyperspace War
Republic: The Devaronian Version
Republic: Rite of Passage

Outbound Flight

The Approaching Storm
Episode II: Attack of the Clones
Clone Wars: The Defense of Kamino
Clone Wars: Victories and Sacrifices

Clone Wars: Light and Dark

Clone Wars: On the Fields of Battle
Hero of Cartao

Dark Rendezvous
Clone Wars: When They Were Brothers
Clone Wars: The Last Siege, the Final Truth

Labyrinth of Evil
Episode III: Revenge of the Sith
Clone Wars: Endgame
Dark Lord: The Rise of Darth Vader

So there we have it! There are a lot of graphic novels in here, fortunately, so it isn’t perhaps as intimidating as it might look at first glance! Also there are a few short stories that I’ve not read before, so that should be interesting. I was toying with the idea of more, including the Kenobi novel, but I think I might be setting myself up for a fall here!

Stay tuned for a stream of blogs to come out across the summer with all of this glorious stuff, at any rate!

In other news, my blog turned 8 today! What an incredible 8 years it’s been…

Remembering the Star Wars LCG

Ah yes, there was indeed a Star Wars living card game. Running for six years, between 2012 and 2018, the game took in the breadth of the Star Wars galaxy from across the original three movies (including Rogue One) and the expanded universe, filling five deluxe expansions and six complete cycles of Force Packs. That’s a lot of cards, though due to the unique structure of the game’s Objective Set deck building rules, the number of unique cards is probably lower than you might think.

I really loved this game, and bought it up consistently for the first few years of its life. When the content started to drift into including Rebels stuff in the fifth cycle, however, I called it a day; in retrospect, if I’d have known that I only had two more cycles to pick up, I might have stuck it out. But, it is what it is, and while a part of me has been thinking that maybe I’ll see if I can still get some of the later packs, I do feel a bit like my resources might be best used elsewhere…

I’m planning to try it out with my wife at some point in the future though, since Jemma did suggest having regular games nights, and we have played a variety of card games now. It’s also pretty newbie-friendly, I think, having the Objective Set structure behind it, as you don’t need to worry too much about building a deck. I’m planning to get just a couple of interesting decks built up, and seeing what she thinks of it, so here’s hoping that I’ll be successful in that!

For all that it’s straightforward in terms of the deck building, which can be as easy or as complex as you like, I think that the game itself plays really quite interestingly. I mean, it almost doesn’t play like any other card game I have tried. The Star Wars thing of having infantry defend against starships is handled well, I think, by having the game basically be about the struggle of light vs dark, and you’re using the unit cards to represent your overall power and might, and not throwing bodies against vehicles, etc.

When you get into the nitty gritty of focus tokens and edge battles, I think the game really comes into its own as this kind of struggle for overall dominance, and it’s something that I really, really enjoy. The fact that it’s done with my favourite cast of heroes and villains, is really just the icing on the cake, I suppose!

I really like the idea of focusing cards to use them. It really gives the game some nice design space when you talk about multiple uses of cards, and making decisions on how many resources to generate from those cards that have the potential to give big returns, but then losing its utility until you’ve been able to clear the tokens from it. Having the asymmetrical gameplay is another thing I like (though of course, it’s not in the same league as Netrunner in this regard).

I’ve gone for two decks to start with, Jedi vs Sith, and have tried to keep them interesting but not overwhelming. In case I’m able to succeed, I’ve got decks built up for the other four factions as well. I’m hoping that things will go my way, and the game will grab Jemma’s attention! I have previously taught her to play Magic, which she got without too much fuss, and she continually surprises me at how competitive she gets in games, so I’m hoping that she’ll like it enough to play more!

One of the big draws for this game now, of course, is that it is finished. That may sound a bit weird, and don’t get me wrong, I love a game that continues to get support, but when you find yourself in a position like this, it’s kinda interesting because it almost becomes a board game, with finite pieces. There may be hundreds of different cards, but you have that finite resource to draw from, and it does feel, to a fairly large degree, that you are dipping into a board game, rather than flicking through endless reams of cards. Another plus point for the Objective Set system is that you assemble a deck fairly quickly from the library, and set up consequently doesn’t take very long at all.

I suppose when the expanded universe was washed away, the writing was on the wall for this game’s survival, so entrenched was it by that point. The material was predominantly movie based, of course, but legends characters like Mara Jade were involved, and while Doctor Aphra has since made an appearance too, I don’t think it was a good move to have that sort of mix. FFG were perhaps rightly looking elsewhere, and Destiny came out with content firmly in the Disney canon. The LCG was therefore allowed to die off with a whimper, and the company has moved on to other outlets for the Star Wars license, mainly X-Wing and Legion. Games like Outer Rim getting an expansion was a surprise, as they do seem to otherwise be very low-key with the Star Wars license, which continually surprises me as I would have thought we’d have seen plenty to exploit the new content that we’re getting! But I wonder if Disney are trying to pull the license back to themselves, and so might be looking at different avenues for the future. Star Wars and gaming have gone hand in hand since time immemorial, so it seems baffling to me that more games aren’t being produced.

At any rate, it’s been so good to get my collection out of the attic, and I’m really looking forward to trying this game out once more!

It’s a shame, really, that I don’t think I’ll ever be able to convince Jemma to try Warhammer Invasion, or Conquest!! 🤣

A Good Friday, indeed!

Hey everybody,
I always like to have a bit of a Star Wars fest around Easter time, and this year is no different. I’ve been watching the movies in chronological order for the last few weeks, and last weekend it was the turn of Rogue One. I’ve seen a lot of stuff out on social media recently that calls it the most underrated Star Wars movie, and while I tend to think that belongs more to Solo, nevertheless I think these anthology movies do tend to lie forgotten while the main saga movies get all the attention. I do wonder if we might be in for more soon – I’m sure I’ve heard that Disney are going to be making an announcement soon about future movies? I hope so, at any rate!

At any rate, I do like Rogue One. While Solo will forever astound me for the fact that it shows us Corellia and Kessel, planets that loom so large from the EU lore it’s ridiculous, I think Rogue One succeeds brilliantly in providing a direct prequel to A New Hope, the uncanny valley CGI notwithstanding. Seeing a planet like Jedha just blows my mind as to the possibilities for more of that kind of fall out from the Jedi Purge, and I hope we do see some similar stuff in the Kenobi and Ahsoka shows, which might afford a glimpse into the religious underground, almost.

Rogue One Jedha

The movie definitely has that retro look down, and fits perfectly into the feel of A New Hope with the clunky tech, and even the hairstyles of some of the actors. While the story does at times have that feel of a video game or RPG adventure, as the heroes go from place to place in their search for the next clue, I like the fact that it follows that structure, somehow, seeing as how the story of the Death Star plans was originally told through those sorts of media.

Scarif Rogue One Star Wars

Of course, we also have the Andor show to look forward to, which will hopefully give us yet more of the gritty reality of the Rebellion. I loved the idea that we get a side of the Rebels that the movies never really shows – the grim and dirty stuff that these people do just to survive. The Empire is, after all, a totalitarian dictatorship, and it stands to reason there would be some pretty horrible stuff being done on both sides of the war. It’ll be interesting to see how far the TV show takes that narrative, though with Forrest Whitaker back as Saw Gerrera as well, I imagine we’ll get some fairly grim war story type of stuff coming our way.

As is my tradition this time of year, I’ve also been taking a look at some of the old West End Games roleplaying game books that I have. I love these things, and I think I pretty much have the full set (might be one or two still to find) It always feels like coming back to my Star Wars roots, somehow, when I crack open one of these with their breadth of creativity and those black and white drawings.

Hideouts and Strongholds is the sort of resource book that WEG churned out throughout their tenure with the Star Wars licence, where they produced plenty of things that you could copy and paste into an adventure or campaign with little to no difficulty. As perhaps you might expect, it’s full to the brim with story hooks and stats for a huge variety of locations, which might serve as a base of operations or a bolt hole for a particular group, either your own adventuring group or for the enemy, and you have to go in there and crack it open like an egg. A huge variety of stuff is on display, from rebel outposts to Imperial installations, crashed starships to glacier fortresses. There’s an extensive rundown of starports, and we even get such tidbits that tell us how precisely moisture vaporators work. It really is a treasure trove, every type of base has a map that describes the layout and features shown, and any defensive weaponry has stats for use in the game. Given that the overall idea of the book is to provide you with ideas and so on, it’s one of those that would very easily translate from game system to game system, especially if the system you’re using already has stats for, say, an anti-infantry laser battery.

No Disintegrations is an adventure sourcebook for bounty hunters, a class of character that was well-supported during the WEG line (they even had their own Galaxy Guide). There are five full adventures to play through with bounty hunter groups, which come complete with a whole host of twists and turns to be thrown at the players. The adventures range from recovering artefacts, tracking gamblers, to evading the bounty posted on themselves. I always like to see how these books incorporate the larger (legends) universe, and the adventures take us to Abegado-rae to The Wheel, as well as a host of other planets, some of which were created for this book. It goes to show how big a role the WEG stuff played in those early years of Star Wars development.

Both of these books were quite late additions to the line, of course (I have a feeling that Hideouts and Strongholds was one of the last to be published), so had a lot to fall back on by this point. Even when they were coming to the end of the licence, it’s great to see this kind of detail still being produced, and it’s the sort of thing that makes me a bit sad that I never got round to playing this back in the day!

Games, Games, Games!

Last week, my wife said the words every guy wants to hear: shall we have a regular game night?


For our first game of the new season, as it were, we got Elder Sign to the table, and started against Yog Sothoth – which was just vicious! We started out as Amanda Sharpe and Gloria Goldberg, but the Museum cards were just so brutal that we were pretty much on an uphill slog from the get-go. It wasn’t impossible per se, but even with Amanda’s ability to complete multiple tasks per roll of the dice, I did find it very difficult. Indeed, Gloria was devoured within about two turns! We went through a succession of investigators, each one was pretty much on a conveyor belt as they turned up, stuck around for maybe a turn or two, then was devoured.

Perhaps inevitably, then, Yog Sothoth woke up and for maybe only the second time I was faced with having to defeat an Ancient One by removing doom. To start with, it was going okay – by this point, we’d made it through to Carolyn Fern and Jenny Barnes – and we removed quite a bit of doom. Then of course, we plateaued. Fortunately, we had amassed enough trophies between the two of us that we were able to keep discarding them through all of this, but with still three doom tokens on him, our final couple of trophies were discarded, and we were devoured forever.

It was a really good game, despite the lack of success! I think Elder Sign sometimes has the reputation for being a walk in the park, hence why later expansions deemed it necessary to make things much more difficult. However, it just goes to show that with the wrong combinations of investigators and location cards, we started on the back foot and things only got worse from there. I honestly don’t think any of the location cards we pulled was particularly easy, and many times we found ourselves failing tasks as a result.

But we’re going to be playing more, which is exciting stuff, so I’m looking forward to working through each of the Ancient Ones in the core game, and then Jemma has said we should also work through the expansions, which is really exciting! I’ve played with Unseen Forces a few times now, but I’m fairly sure that stuff like Gates of Arkham and Omens of Ice have only hit the table once each, and Omens of the Pharaoh and Omens of the Deep have never been played with – indeed, the tokens sheet was still shrinkwrapped in each of the boxes!

I’m really looking forward to seeing what each of these expansions has to offer, and there will doubtless be more reports here on the blog when I do! I’ve also recently bought Ticket to Ride and the Charms & Potions expansion for the Harry Potter deck building game, so that’s very exciting, as well!

Moving on!

Last night, I had my first game of Tau in 9th edition, my first game with Tau since June 2018 and 8th edition, and my first game of 40k in what feels like months! Fortunately, I don’t think I was particularly rusty with the rules. JP was playing Imperial Fists, which was a revelation, as he has only ever played Word Bearers in all the time I’ve known him, so we both didn’t really know what we were doing…

I was playing according to the plans and thoughts laid out in this blog, so was really happy that I had remembered to actually write all of this stuff out beforehand, as I could just reference it when needed! I think that was probably the first big difference, because while I wasn’t entirely sure what I was doing, I was still prepared, but JP wasn’t prepared with his Fists. I don’t mean that unkindly, just that there wasn’t really a plan that took into account stratagems and so on.

We were playing the Crossfire mission, albeit on a square table rather than the usual rectangle. I was able to get first turn, which proved to be incredibly powerful as I was able to move my Pathfinders into position securely knowing that I would not be overly exposing them by doing so. As such, they snagged me two additional objectives, and were able to light up a lot of the board with markerlight tokens. Between the first Pathfinder squad and the Breacher squad, I was able to eliminate a squad of Primaris marines (and I forgot about the markerlight buff while doing so – learning point number one!) Then moving on to the Redemptor Dreadnought, my Crisis team was able to get rid of that in combination with the Strike squad. I used the Relentless Fusillade stratagem to double the shots and improve AP by 1, then the Coordinated Engagement stratagem to further improve the AP by 1, on top of having chosen Mont’ka to improve the AP by 1 for all shooting within 18”. I forgot about the Coordinated Engagement on the Crisis team, but my Fire Warriors were making 20 shots at AP-4, which is worth it just for the hilarity factor. As such, the Dreadnought was eliminated in short order.

The second group of Pathfinders then shot the Primaris Eliminators off the board, with some assistance from the Commander, whose final volleys helped to soften up the Impulsor tank. Two hours of my shooting phase later, and I had wiped out three entire units, and controlled three of the four objective markers, meaning I was already up 7 victory points. There wasn’t a great deal that could then be done, though JP was actually able to wipe out that second Pathfinder squad in a single round of close combat, thanks to the Assault Intercessors making a ridiculous number of attacks on the charge.

In the end, I lost the Pathfinder team, two Crisis suits, and a single Fire Warrior. Due to the fact that it was already getting late, and we were only having a learning game anyway, we called it after the first turn, but I think this will definitely bear further exploration as time goes on, as I really enjoyed the army, regardless of the victory.

There were definitely some learning points on my side of the table as well, though. For starters, drones are people too (kinda) – I had been treating them as basically unit upgrades and not thinking of them as actual models. As such, that second Pathfinder squad shouldn’t have been wiped out, as there were still 5 wounds remaining from the drones. Secondly, there is a very tasty stratagem called Pulse Onslaught for Fire Warriors, which makes 6s auto-wound. I think it was the Strike Squad that rolled about seven 6s to hit, which would have been quite wonderful, but no matter. My third learning point is around the Commander, who allows for nearby Core units to re-roll hits of 1, and also for nearby Core units to advance a straight 8”. As it happens, I rolled a 6 for my Breacher squad and was therefore able to advance them enough to claim the objective they were sat on for the game, backing up the Pathfinders there. But it would be handy to remember!

I do quite like the Breacher team, as they were able to play a key part in removing the unit of Primaris marines, thanks to the Breach and Clear stratagem that allows for re-rolls of wound rolls, and also denies cover. However, while this brings me on to where to go next with the army, I think I’m actually going to favour the Strike team instead as my third unit of troops, giving the unit pulse carbines rather than pulse rifles for a more mobile team. I think this could work quite well, having the unit with pulse rifles remaining fairly stationary for the battle, as they still have the stratagem to double the shots so they don’t need to move into rapid fire range to do damage. I can then have the pulse carbines moving into position to set up that Coordinated Engagement, and potentially have both units doling out 20 shots each, AP-3 for the carbines and AP-4 for the rifles. With judicious use of the Commander to allow for them to re-roll hits of 1, that could be very nice indeed.

I’m definitely thinking about swapping out the Ethereal for the Cadre Fireblade, as this guy gives pulse weapons within 6” exploding 6s to hit, and also has the ability to allow for re-roll of 1s to hit, giving the Commander more flexibility to cover the field. He also has a markerlight, which I’m thinking will be key to the battle here, as it basically allows for the troops to hit on 3s as well, which stacks up something dreadful. I mean, what other basic troop choice has the firepower for 20 shots to hit on 3s, re-rolling 1s, and 6s get additional shots and auto-wound; wounding (potentially) on 3s, at AP-4?

I’m still intent on not letting this army get away from me, though, so I don’t want to plan for all manner of horribleness and end up with too much to paint. I already have the Crisis team and Ethereal primed but not painted, and I built the Breacher squad ready for this game, but now have 23 models that need painting because of this! It makes me uneasy, so I’m not about to go building the Ghostkeel or something, just to have more toys to play with at the expense of drastically increasing the painting load!

There’s doubtless more to be said about the Tau, and I definitely think I’m back wanting to get them painted again! So that was very good!

The Black Legion update 1

Remember when I painted this glorious miniature, all the way back in the mists of time (August 2020)?

Well, he’s since been languishing in a box of otherwise unfinished comrades. After a lot of procrastination (even by my standards, it’s been a lot…) I’ve finally begun work on a fairly major push to get more Black Legion models finished. I’m starting with the 10 Shadowspear marines (I keep calling them that, but they’re probably now better labelled as the Start Collecting marines). It’s been a long road, but I’ve finally got some progress to share, and it is definitely getting me motivated to get more painted!

I’ve only been working on five of them, plus the Sorcerer, as the amount of details on these guys is quite overwhelming. However, as I’ve been getting closer to the finish line with them, while I wouldn’t say that it’s actually gotten easier, it is certainly becoming more manageable, as I pick out the bits that I can actually see, and not worrying too much about the tiny stuff that you can’t see.

They aren’t going to win me any awards, for sure, but I am enjoying getting more miniatures finished. It’s always difficult, I find, to come back to half-finished models and pick up where I left off, especially if it’s been a number of months or years! In the group of five, though, I had two that were barely touched, and it’s been good to actually see those “come to life”, as it were. At any rate, the five marines, plus the Sorcerer, are coming along nicely, and I can hopefully make some good progress with these chaps, and the remaining five members of the squad, and it won’t be too long before I can be showing off another finished unit here on the blog!

The Forgotten Age

Hey everybody,

After the surprising turn of events at Innsmouth, I’ve decided to go much further afield for my next Arkham Horror LCG campaign, to the jungles of Mexico in fact! It’s time to embark on another epic journey, as Ursula Downs and Lily Chen take on the snake people!

The Forgotten Age is the third deluxe expansion for the game, and introduces a couple of interesting elements to the overall game experience. To start with, both of the scenarios in the expansion feature a mechanic called Explore, which replaces the traditional board-style layout of locations with a deck of locations and treachery cards. It’s very interesting, as it mimics the idea of being on an expedition really well. You might be lucky and draw the locations you need that will help you to gain clues, but then again, you might not!

Somewhat linked to this is Supplies, a seemingly arbitrary decision at the start of the campaign for investigators to bring certain things with them, such as medicines, provisions, a map, binoculars, etc. Then, based on what you have, you can scout a little ahead in the Explore deck, looking for the locations and putting the treacheries at the bottom of the deck.

There is also a new Vengeance keyword, which works much like a negative Victory. It doesn’t negate Victory, but cards with Vengeance X also go into the Victory display, and buff some enemies or treacheries (or even mythos token effects) the more of them there are. It pays to avoid killing Vengeance enemies, but it can be tricky to keep them at bay…

Alert is a new keyword that acts a little bit like Retaliate, allowing the enemy to attack you if you fail an Evade test. I’ve read that the addition of new ways for enemies to fight you, coupled with a seemingly arbitrary system of reward and punishment based on what Supplies you took, has been the main cause for this campaign receiving so much negative press. I think that’s unfair, as so far I have no reason to hate these mechanics; they’re basically a new aspect of the game for me, and something that will go a long way to make this campaign feel different.

I’m taking a pair of investigators about whom I’m really excited. Ursula Downs was originally published in this expansion, of course, and Lily Chen came in the recent Edge of the Earth expansion, another exotic adventure mystery!! I’m definitely excited to be using the two of them, and I’m looking forward to seeing how their decks will grow over the campaign.

1. The Untamed Wilds

This scenario is quite a standard explore type of mystery, showcasing the new mechanics while otherwise being nothing massively new. We’re on an expedition into the jungles of Mexico that has been funded by Miskatonic University, and led by the renowned historian Alejandro Vela, to go in search of the Eztli, a somewhat mythical lost race. We build the map as we go, thanks to the explore mechanic, which I am a big fan of. A bit like we saw in The Circle Undone, there is a fail forward element here where, regardless of the outcome, we end up in the same narrative point at the start of the second scenario.

There’s then an interlude that pretty much follows which supplies the investigators chose to take with them, and something that I found particularly shocking was the fact that, as nobody thought to bring a blanket, we’ve now got 1 mental trauma from all the tossing and turning!

2. The Doom of Eztli

We’ve made our way through the jungle, and we’ve found a strange temple that seems to thrum with power. It is also guarded by horrible snake creatures. However, we’re trying to find a central chamber, the resting place of a powerful relic. Just what has this Alejandro got us into, eh?

The objective here is to find a hidden room, the Chamber of Time, and once that has been investigated the chamber re-orientates itself, and the whole temple complex itself, into a linear path, and the investigators basically have to escape. Classic Indiana Jones style adventure, including a race through a crumbling temple! Somewhat on theme, my investigators basically burst through in the final round, happily accepting a fairly hefty chunk of damage from attacks of opportunity in order to escape. You could just picture them both leaping from the exit, clothing torn and covered in dust…

I’m really enjoying this one so far. In fact, I’m a little bit mystified as to why it has had such bad press online, as it’s a really good start to the proceedings, in my view. Sure, the first scenario is a little tame, but I suppose I have been spoilt a bit by playing later campaigns that have more going on, maybe.

Pre-Colombian America is something that I really enjoy, as well, so I’m really excited to see where we go next! The decks have already been levelled up a bit, and I seem to have thrown in my lot with the native woman Ichtaca, putting myself somewhat at odds to Alejandro. I can’t help wondering if that was a good idea though, as I’m already thinking that I may be headed for catastrophe over an apparent obsession with the relic that was pulled from the ruins. I’ll say this for the writers on this game – they’re very good at making me that little bit paranoid about my game choices!!