Star Wars LCG: The Hoth Cycle

I am so obsessed with the Star Wars LCG, it’s untrue. It’s a real shame that I never had the people around me who were into it back in the day, as I think it’s one of those games where, given the right sort of playgroup, you could have so much fun, re-enacting so many key moments from across the entirety of the original trilogy.

Something that I’ve been thinking about a lot in the last few weeks is how much I miss having a card game – or specifically, a living card game, that I would play regularly and tinker with my decks when we had a new release. I did this a lot with Lord of the Rings during its early days, and I remember doing a fair bit with my Netrunner decks too. But in other games, I would say 85% of the time, I was starting with a big card pool. Of course, coming back to the Star Wars card game four years too late runs really counter to this, as well, given that I have pretty much everything there will ever be for the game. I find myself yearning for a new Star Wars game that I can get my teeth into, in the hope that I can once again have this experience of meta-shifts over time.

But in an effort to re-capture some of this element, I’ve been playing the game with some decks that are built somewhat restricted to the early sets available. Both the Rebel and Empire decks that Jemma and I have been using are made predominantly from the core set with some Hoth cycle cards thrown in, and just one set that came later in the game that is used mainly for flavour, or to support the deck. In this way, I’m enjoying playing the game and getting to experience some meta-shifts as I’m thinking of introducing newer cycles every few months. In all honesty, Jemma and I aren’t really playing very often, so it could almost run in real time, with deck changes on an annual basis! But I thought I’d come here today to talk about this cracking game, and it’s first cycle. In the future, I think I’ll be doing a similar style of blog for all of the cycles – hopefully I’ll still be playing it by the time it comes round to the last one!!

The Hoth Cycle is mainly focused around the struggle between the Rebels and the Imperials, following the events of the movie. Of course, everybody gets cards throughout the cycle. The Jedi have some interesting support stuff, and a very interesting new version of Luke which predates the Pilot keyword by a couple of cycles.

This pre-Pilot is a theme for the Rebels, who can attach characters like Wedge to speeder unit cards for additional effects. There are a lot of really interesting interactions among the speeders in these objective sets, and the objectives themselves have the theme of control that is mirrored in the Empire’s sets, as both sides fight for control of the “ice cube”.

The very next cycle then gave us an additional Hoth objective set, featuring none other than General Riekkan, along with an objective that increases the Rebels’ Force icons in the Force struggle. Very handy, and always nice to see it when some older themes are given further support.

We also had a new, Rebel version of Han Solo, who allows you to search your deck for a card when he leaves play. Nothing too earth shattering there, if I’m honest. I think there are some fairly exciting deck prospects that present themselves from looking through the Rebel and Smuggler cards in conjunction.

Renegade Squadron was founded by Col Serra on the orders of Han Solo, the idea being to recruit an elite team of smugglers to assist with the Alliance’s “dreamers”. Their first action was during the evacuation of Yavin, and they played a significant part in the defence of Echo Base.

It’s natural, then, that they’ll feature in the Hoth cycle. It makes things very interesting by giving us more Hoth objectives that can be mixed in to a Rebel/Smuggler deck, which can be quite a popular build.

There is some really lovely synergy between the three objective sets. Col Serra himself buffs you during the Edge battle, and he cannot be damaged or focused during an engagement where you have the Edge. The objective itself allows you to put the top card of your deck into your Edge stack as well. There are a number of ways to dictate the flow of the battle as well, such as forcing characters to defend, or preventing characters from taking part in the battle. It should make for some pretty exciting deck options, for sure.

The interesting thing, though, is the synergy between Col Serra buffing the edge battle, and the Rebel objective Hoth Operations, which gives each speeder unit an icon to use in the edge battle if you control more Hoth objectives. It does certainly make for some interesting deck-building ideas for a Rebel/Smuggler deck, maybe when we’re a bit further into playing the game and want to mix things up more!!

Renegade Squadron wasn’t entirely forgotten, as a fourth objective set featured them in Imperial Entanglements, which has a lot of shenanigans as far as altering the flow of battle when you defend.

In addition to these gems, we have five neutral Hoth objective sets, which contain some very useful support cards, including a set built around shielding and stuff.

As might be expected, there are many Imperial cards that stand out for me as being very tasty. There’s an Imperial version of Darth Vader, there are cards for the Death Squadron he commands, and General Veers gets his own objective set. A very exciting set is that one at the bottom there with Colonel Starck, the guy who commands Blizzard 4 in Empire. For those of you who don’t know, Blizzard 4 is the walked Luke throws the bomb into after his snowspeeder has been downed. He’s a wonderful example of the way characters come to be, first being mentioned in a reference book and later having his story fleshed out.

The Empire have the Death Squadron, but for some reason the flagship, Executor, is in the Sith side, who otherwise get some Sithspawn creatures, some stormtroopers, and a Prophet of the Dark Side objective set. While it’s a bit weird, I think it’s great to see that already this game is really delving into the background for stuff, and a lot of cards make reference to stuff from the 90s, giving me some real nostalgia-bumps!

Finally, the Scum faction gets some mercenaries and Dengar. I think FFG had said the “story”, such as it can be said to exist here, was that the scum were getting ready to collect on Jabba’s bounty on Han Solo. Given that I don’t think Edge of Darkness was out for the most part of this cycle, so Scum in particular seem to get a really raw deal here – at least Smugglers have some good synergy with the Rebels!!

There we have it, anyway. The first cycle for the Star Wars LCG still drips in theme, for me, nine years after its release. I’m planning to look through all of the expansion cycles in due course (hopefully I’ll have picked up those final two packs by the time it comes to the last cycle!) so stay tuned for more!!

Warcry content in White Dwarf

Hey everybody,
I’ve been going through the archives, so to speak, and taking a look at all of the stuff published for Warcry through White Dwarf since the game was launched in 2019. If I’m honest, there’s not as much new content in there as, say, for Necromunda, but even so, I thought it might be useful for others like me, who are curious as to what else is out there for this great game!

While there hasn’t been a great deal of content in the way of new rules and so on, I think it’s interesting that White Dwarf has been giving us new cards for fighters, particularly recently with these pull-out sections they’ve been doing. This really goes back to the Jakkob Bugmansson fighter card that came in with a slew of other game “expansions” within the magazines, as an actual printed card for use in the game.

Back when Warcry was released, we had a Designer’s Diary in the September 2019 issue that showcased the initial six warbands, and talked through the influences and such for the miniatures. We also had two battle reports. A couple of months later, the December 2019 issue had a Realm Focus article on the Eightpoints, and included a two-page painting guide for the ruins showing four different colour schemes using Contrast paints. I think this is quite useful, as I still don’t know how I want to paint my scenery from the original core set!!

The first new rules for Warcry came in the February 2020 issue, Issue 451 in the new numbering system, when we had the rules for Fyreslayers. At this time, GW had already released a bunch of card packs for some of the various Age of Sigmar factions, but Fyreslayers weren’t one of them. While they would release further waves of packs, it felt like a lot of people saw the White Dwarf release as “righting a wrong” or something, but anyway.

The Spire Tyrants were the seventh original warband released for Warcry, and in Issue 452 (March 2020) they got their own campaign rules, Lord of the Pits. The very next issue began the Tale of Four Warbands, which was a great way to raise the profile of the game, in my view, showcasing four warbands and some amazing colour schemes, as well as featuring battle reports to show just how awesome the game is!

In Issue 454 (May 2020), we had rules and a campaign for the Lumineth Realmlords, who were a new army when the Sentinels of Order expansion book had been released, so weren’t included. The Lumineth were also expanded in the article on the Warhammer Community site, of course, which was partly later folded into Tome of Champions 2021. The Lumineth were treated to a box much like the Slaanesh Sybarites that I picked up last month, though, giving all the fighter cards for the faction.

We had another warband release with Issue 456 (September 2020), with Cities of Sigmar getting cards and a campaign. I say “cards”, of course, but they’re just printed in the magazine – you know what I mean, though! This was followed with the Jakkob Bugmansson card in Issue 458 (November 2020) as I mentioned above, which was a physical card, as well as a challenge battle for using him in games.

Things went very quiet on the Warcry front for the whole of 2021 though. It wasn’t until Issue 473 (February 2022) arrived that we got our next Warcry fix, with rules for gaming in Thondia, within the Realm of Beasts. Everything Age of Sigmar seems to be focusing on Ghur right now, so it’s no surprise really. There are a bunch of charts in this update, which allow us to generate new Victory Conditions and new Twists, as well as new charts for gaining artifacts and command traits when playing a campaign in Thondia. In addition, all beasts in the battle get +1 toughness, which is a nice thematic bit.

Issue 474 (March 22) gave us the first of many tie-ins to Age of Sigmar releases, when we had updated rules for Idoneth Deepkin and Fyreslayers, which accompany the two new characters that came out in the boxset. These characters also have cards in the magazine. Campaigns for each warband are also included here, all battles of which make use of the Red Harvest terrain, something I thought was interesting as it seems to suggest that this will be the new starter. At least the box is still available to buy, which is a nice change!

The next issue, Issue 475 (April 22) gave us Oath of Ascension – four linked games for Chaos warbands, each one fighting to become a Daemon Prince. It’s a really interesting mini-campaign idea, I think – you each have an Annointed fighter, who is trying to become a Daemon Prince, but whoever fares the best over the first three games then finds that Chaos has turned on them, and that Annointed fighter becomes a Possessed fighter under their opponent’s control. The “winner” needs to take down their former champion, but each time the Possessed fighter takes out another member of their former warband, they gain 10 wounds. Very nice!

Finally (for now!), in Issue 476 (May 22) we had updated rules for Nighthaunt and Daughters of Khaine, which goes alongside the recent boxset much like the Fyreslayers and Idoneth. We get new campaigns for each as well, once more using the Red Harvest terrain. The rules are more substantial for Nighthaunt, as they had more new models, but even so, it’s nice to see that GW are keen to keep the Age of Sigmar model range relevant in Warcry as well. Interesting, too, because the more models you have available to your warband, the bigger your collection becomes, until you might as well invest in Age of Sigmar as well…


At any rate, that brings us up to date with the stuff White Dwarf has made available for Warcry so far. I’ll be keeping this page updated as time moves on, so that it provides (hopefully) as complete a picture for what is out there. While a lot of stuff, like the early Fyreslayers and Lumineth stuff has of course been superseded and replaced, it would be nice if we had this collected in one of the annual books. Looking through my little Warcry library so far, I don’t think the Spire Tyrants campaign was ever reprinted, for instance, and as we seem to be getting much more stuff coming out this year, I would hope that it doesn’t disappear into the mists of time as things move on.

The Great Prequel Re-Read, part three

Hey everybody,
We’re on part three of the Great Prequel Re-Read, already! This is well and truly a Summer of Star Wars! We’re firmly in the Republic run of comics now, as well, and after some fairly random and almost throwaway adventures, things begin to pick up the pace a bit with Republic #19, the first issue of the Twilight storyline. No, it’s got nothing to do with vampires. It’s the introduction proper to Quinlan Vos, the Jedi Knight who has lost his memory!

This is going to be a bit of a weird blog of two halves, as I’m going all the way from #19 to #45. The tale of Quinlan and Aayla is told across three arcs, which are interspersed with some other stories. But we’ll tackle Quinlan first.

Twilight begins with Quinlan Vos waking up in a burning building, with no memory of how he got there, or indeed of who he is. He is rescued by Vilmarh Grahk, and the two are pursued through the streets of Nar Shaddaa as others attempt to kill him – it turns out, all for a bet. Quinlan seems to be the subject of a weird kind of Squid Games, where numerous beings have bet on when he will die. Villie only rescues him so that Quinlan will die when Villie bet he would; when that goes wrong, Villie makes another bet that Quinlan will survive to get off-world, but Quinlan is more concerned with finding out why he has lost his memory. He discovers that he can glean images from objects through psychokinesis, and realises that he is a Jedi Knight with a missing padawan.

The story then fills in some of his backstory, with varying degrees of info-dump and also genuine clue-tracking, which is really interesting. Quinlan travels to his home planet of Kiffu, where he learns from his aunt, Sheyf Tinte, that he and Aayla were tracking down a drug trafficking ring, the drug being an illegal synthesis of glitterstim and ryll that, evidently, wipes a person’s memory. On Ryloth, Quinlan discovers that Pol Secura is involved, the uncle of his erstwhile padawan, and has been feeding Aayla the spice to keep her quiet. When Quinlan gives in to his rage and kills Pol, Aayla flees in terror. Quinlan follows the conspiracy to Coruscant, where he unmasks the Senator Chom Frey Kaa who was behind the scheme, and then submits to the Council for re-training.

The next arc, Infinity’s End, is not worth the re-read, so I’ve skipped over it and gone straight to the next Ostrander instalment, Darkness. We begin in orbit over Kiffex, the prison planet, where Aayla Secura crash-lands and discovers a temple with the Anzati Dark Jedi Volfe Kaarko imprisoned in a stasis field. She releases him, and the feral Anzati who have been worshipping at the temple begin co-ordinated strikes against the Kiffar Guardians’ outposts. Sheyf Tinte requests that Quinlan Vos come to investigate, and despite the fact he has been through such an ordeal recently, the Council agrees, secretly dispatching Quinlan’s former Master, Tholme, to watch over him. On the prison planet, they meet Villie once again, and Tholme fills in some more blanks for Quinlan – he has a darkness within him that stems from the fact he psychokinetically witnessed his parents’ deaths by Anzati when Tinte gave him a clan emblem to help with the investigation. Quinlan has previously overcome his fear of the Anzati when he became a Jedi Knight, but since his memories were wiped, he has lost this experience, so must face it again.

Tholme, Quinlan and Villie join forces with the Jedi watchman for the sector, T’ra Saa, and lead an assault on Kaarko’s temple. Kaarko forces Quinlan and Aayla to duel, but Quinlan is able to redeem his former padawan. Kaarko and Quinlan then duel, and while Quinlan almost gives in to his fear, he is able to overcome the Dark Jedi once and for all. Aayla is re-apprenticed to Tholme while Quinlan continues his journey of rediscovery of the Jedi way.

I’d forgotten just how much I like Darkness. There is a lot of history there, and it really sets up a lot of the later Republic stuff with the Anzati stuff. It’s interesting, as well, to learn more of Quinlan’s past, and seeing just how ruthless and, well, nasty, Sheyf Tinte can be!

Finally, we come to Rite of Passage. Tholme and Aayla are on Ryloth to investigate Ro Fenn, part of the ruling council when Pol Secura was killed. By Twi’lek tradition, Fenn must walk out into the Bright Lands, the inhospitable sun-baked part of Ryloth, to die. Ro Fenn is discussing the possibility of escaping his fate with Villie, while Aayla spies on them. She learns that Fenn intends to kidnap Nat Secura, the prime heir of the Secura clan, to blackmail his father Lon Secura into allowing him to live. Tholme is unable to rescue Nat before two Morgukai warriors kidnap him. Tholme stows away aboard their ship, and Aayla follows him to Ord Mantell, where the trail goes cold – but she does find Quinlan.

The two find Villie in a casino, and he eventually tells them of a Morgukai base on Kintan, the Nikto homeworld. Meanwhile, it transpires that Kh’ariss Fenn, the exiled son of Ro Fenn, is behind the kidnap of Nat Secura, and he in turn is being aided from the shadows by Count Dooku. Kh’ariss returns to Ryloth and demands all the ruling councils be dissolved, and instead installing himself as leader of a united Ryloth. Lon Secura almost capitulates, but Villie arrives with news from Quinlan that Nat is safe, so the Fenns are imprisoned, Kh’ariss flees but Ro is forced to walk into the Bright Lands. On Kintan, Aayla and Quinlan face off against the Morgukai warriors and are able to rescue both Tholme and Nat, and together they return the Twi’lek hostage to his father. Aayla is granted the rank of Jedi Knight, and Quinlan that of Master.

I really like this one. Unlike Darkness, which I’d forgotten how much I enjoyed it, I’ve always had a real affection for Rite of Passage – it was new when I started to properly get into the comics (I know, I was a late bloomer!) and it has one of the first appearances outside of episode two for Count Dooku – the comic ran from May to September 2002. Things have begun to feel a lot more joined-up now, and I really love it! These three stories, although particularly the latter two, help to set up a lot of interesting storylines for later in the Clone Wars comics, particularly around the Anzati and the Morgukai. I don’t know why I like the Nikto as a species so much, maybe it’s to do with my love for Return of the Jedi, but having a serious warrior sect like this is just fascinating, and I feel like Ostrander and Duursema have made the universe so much more richer for giving us all of this stuff.

The second batch of stories that intermingle with the “big three”. The Hunt for Aurra Sing is something of a direct sequel to Outlander, really, as we see the Jedi assassin kill some Jedi on Coruscant itself, but leaving a padawan alive, prompting the Council to send Ki-Adi-Mundi to bring her in. The Dark Woman wishes to do so, as we learn she was Sing’s former Master, but the Council think she’s too close to the assassin, and deny her request. However, fate intervenes as some Quarren businessmen enlist Sing’s services in hunting The Dark Woman. Sing is given the co-ordinates of an unsettled planet where she is to be found. En route, Sing crosses paths with Ki and shoots him down – the Jedi is rescued by Senator Tikkes, who is also travelling to the unsettled world, and so everybody meets up just as a meteor storm begins. Sing is unable to kill her former mentor, but when she is confronted by A’Sharad Hett, the young Jedi padawan defeats her but at the cost of skirting too close to the Dark Side. A’Sharad asks to be released from his apprenticeship, but in the chaos of the meteor shower, Aurra Sing escapes.

The Stark Hyperspace War is a flashback tale, told by Tholme, Plo Koon and Mace Windu to Aayla Secura, of a war fourteen years prior to the Invasion of Naboo. After an explosion on Thyferra, bacta production ground to a halt and shipping prices skyrocketed. Iaco Stark, a smuggler and pirate, formed the Stark Commercial Combine to tackle the predations of the Trade Federation, and conflicts regularly broke out in the Outer Rim. Senator Valorum attempted to meet with Stark for a peaceful solution, while Senator Ranulph Tarkin (to distinguish him from his more famous cousin, Wilhuff) argued for the creation of a Republic military. Tarkin forced Nute Gunray to tell him where the summit was to be held, whereupon he intended to arrive in force with his prototype Republic Navy, however Stark had anticipated this and unleashed a hyperspace virus on the back of Gunray’s signal, which scrambled the navicomputers of all Republic ships. With no bacta and no hyperspace-worthy ships, crisis ensued. Plo Koon was able to use his telepathy to read Stark’s mind, providing the Jedi with valuable insight and allowing them to ultimately end the conflict.

It’s a bit daft, this one, I’m not gonna lie. Somewhere in there, there’s a good story, and I like the idea that the bacta shortage was manufactured for profit, but led to a war where the wounded now have scars because of it, etc. We’ve already encountered the conflict in Cloak of Deception, as well, which makes it all feel like one narrative for the universe. However, I think this story could have benefited from more than just four issues. Never mind!

Finally, there are a couple of shorter stories to fill out things. The Devaronian Version is a two-parter that re-tells the story of the Yinchorri conflict from Villie’s point of view, with some hilarious fabrications being told – Villie’s name for Darth Sidious is “Bobo”, who hires Villie to start the war so that he can steal the “secret treasure of the Jedi”, which causes the Jedi Council to break down into tears and fights. He also explains that he was running a scam with Quinlan Vos, and wasn’t the Jedi’s lapdog, as many in the Outer Rim have been suggesting.

Heart of Fire is a tiny, three-page comic that was originally published in Dark Horse Extra, that gives a bit of follow-up on the Jedi padawan Aurra Sing nearly kills during the opening of The Hunt for Aurra Sing, Xiaan Amersu. She meets up with Quinlan Vos in a meditation garden within the Jedi Temple, and offers him a stone called a heart of fire, which he had given to Aayla Secura, and she had passed to Xiaan. These stones retain memories of their owners, and by giving it back to Quinlan, he is able to literally re-live experiences with Aayla rather than read about them as if they are just stories. It’s a very short tale, but goes fairly deep into Quinlan’s suffering following his loss of memory – you get the feeling that it might be a neat story hook, but actually, there is more to the whole thing for him. The story evidently takes place sometime before Darkness, because he is still searching for his former padawan at this moment in time.

So there we have it! I think this is the longest stretch of comics in my Prequel re-read; there are more to come during the Clone Wars, of course, but we’ve got a few more novels peppered in there, so it should be interesting! Up next is Outbound Flight, a novel that I’ve only actually read once, when it first came out. I think there are many ties to the new Thrawn Ascendancy trilogy within that book, weirdly – as if Zahn had left a lot of threads hanging that he could then pick up in a few years’ time. Anyway, stay tuned for that!

9th edition Maelstrom

Maelstrom of War is one of my favourite ways to play 40k, using tactical objectives that are achieved over the course of the battle. The sort of things you hear in battle reports like “monster slayer” and “defend objective three” and such, it’s sadly not something that a lot of people around me like to play. I think the idea of changing, random objectives throughout the battle doesn’t appeal to a lot of tactically-minded players, who want a straight run at victory.

The Maelstrom format was new for 7th edition, with a whole bunch of tactical objectives that were generated on a D66 roll. When new codexes came out, you could also get datacards that provided a deck themed to your army, with predominantly the same cards in each one, save for the first six that were unique for your guys. Notably in 9th, Maelstrom of War disappeared from the rulebook, and the packs of cards that you buy alongside the codex is principally the stratagem suite, with psychic powers and whatnot filling them out. White Dwarf 461, from all the way back in February 2021, gave us beta rules for Maelstrom in 9th edition, a series of twelve pages of rules that allow you to play in this manner.

There are six categories of Tactical Objectives, which are a bit more prescriptive than we’ve seen before, as they tie in much more strongly to the mission you’re playing. In short, when you pick one from the six missions included in this rules pack, it tells you to select three categories, then you roll a D3 to determine from which category that you generate your objectives. So if you chose your first category to be from the Holding the Line category, you would need to roll a 1 or 2 to ensure you can generate an objective from that category. There is one mission where all six objective categories are on offer, though.

The missions are otherwise really quite bland, with just one specific rule for each, such as keeping objectives secret until scored, or players preventing their opponent from scoring one of the objectives that round, etc. Not that they necessarily need a great deal of rules etc, but still.

It’s quite random, for sure, and you could pick three categories but end up generating all three from the same category. When you come to actually generate your objectives from the category, you roll a D6 and see what you’ve got (with rules for changing this if the objective is unachievable for any reason). There are four specific stratagems for use with this way of playing, and all interact with the tactical objectives in some manner. The first objective is worth more victory points than any other in each chart, and there is a stratagem to change the roll to a 1 to give you a chance at that objective during the round (but you can only use it once per round, of course).

The format appears to have morphed into Tempest of War, a pack of cards that recently came out that sounds very similar to the old Open War playstyle, but here you select the mission (from a set of 6) and deployment (from a further 6 cards), then a mission rule (from a set of 12 cards) and away you go. Each player gets a deck of 20 secondary objectives, and this is where the ebb and flow of the game comes in, basically replicating Maelstrom of War but without the massive deck of cards that could sometimes make the older format a bit too random.

Notably, Open War does still exist for 9th edition, with the pre-existing format adapted and changed up. With the way that 9th edition works, with secondary objectives and all the rest of it, Open War is a bit of an odd duck, though, as a lot of armies are being engineered in a different direction. They’re great for playing the odd game, but I think we’ve all come to expect something a lot more from 9th edition now, and Open War feels like a bit of a relic at this point.

I’m a big Maelstrom fan, but I realise that part of that is down to nostalgia for how I learnt to play 40k from battle reports. Tempest of War sounds like just the sort of thing that I’ve been looking for since 9th edition launched, striking a balance between the old Open War and my beloved Maelstrom of War. I’m still thinking that I might try to play with those beta rules at some point, but ultimately, I think this Tempest of War sounds like it could well be a whole lot of fun!

The Blood Harvest

Hey everybody,
It’s been a while since Magic has been at the forefront of my mind, but today I thought I’d once again spend a bit of time talking about a deck that I’ve been tinkering with recently. It’s an older red/black deck, which I think I’d originally built years ago – Vampires and Demons, Zombies and Wizards! It was, like many such decks, a bit of a homage to the deck I used so often with the android app, but has since evolved into something a bit more like my normal style of deck-building. Any time I’m building a paper deck, it’s hampered by the fact I didn’t get into the game until well after most of the legendary sets, such as Zendikar and Innistrad, so the card pool is somewhat limited! But still, enough prattling on, let’s look at the deck itself!

As always for me, it’s creature-heavy, but this one is particularly big on bodies.

Creatures (22)
Harvester of Souls
Blood Cultist
Kargan Dragonlord
Onyx Mage
Blind Zealot
Stonewright
Rakish Heir (2)
Bloodcrazed Neonate (2)
Markov Blademaster
Stromkirk Noble
Vampire Outcasts
Falkenrath Torturer
Falkenrath Aristocrat
Falkenrath Exterminator
Guul Draz Vampire
Kalastria Highborn
Vein Drinker (2)
Sangromancer
Blood Seeker

Instants / Sorceries (5)
Uncanny Speed
Dark Temper
Vampire’s Bite
Feast of Blood
Blood Tribute

Enchantments (5)
Curse of Wizardry
Raid Bombardment
Talons of Falkenrath
Maniacal Rage
Claws of Valakut

Artifacts (3)
Veinfire Borderpost
Onyx Goblet
Elbrus, the Binding Blade

Land (25)
Swamp (11)
Mountain (9)
Lavaclaw Reaches
Crypt of Agadeem
Smoldering Spires
Teetering Peaks
Akoum Refuge

The main idea behind the deck, then, is to just beat on my opponent with constant attacks. There are a few effects that don’t allow my creatures to block, emphasizing the vicious nature of the deck. There aren’t really any key pieces for the deck, either, which is something of a philosophy for me when making these kinds of decks. Far too often, you’ll be playing a game with an army out there, and key cards are getting removed in one way or another; for me, it’s much better if I can just keep going with whatever I have to hand.

The Innistrad vampires have the subtheme of +1/+1 counters going onto cards, and I was thinking about including some of the Proliferate cards from Scars of Mirrodin block, as I have done with my Sheoldred deck, but I think this deck is a little less involved than that one. If the cards can generate counters, then that’s great, and there are a couple of “target creature can’t block” effects to hopefully get some combat damage through to make it happen, but that’s not the force of the deck, really.

It’s just all about dealing damage, all the time. There’s a little bit of deathtouch, and a little bit of intimidate, but otherwise we’re not being too fancy here. Sometimes it’s just good to go all out and kill stuff, you know? The big lad in the deck is the Harvester of Souls, which would be nice if he had some form of evasion like flying, but I think deathtouch can be enough of a deterrent at times that he should still be able to get some damage through. I’ve got Falkenrath Aristocrat in the deck as well, who is quite a powerhouse in the right circumstances. I was actually trying to alter the deck up to include more humans to sacrifice to her abilities before I realised that I basically have one copy of her in the deck, so it became a bit silly.

There are a couple of cards that I can still see myself swapping out, though for the moment I’m leaving them where they are. Raid Bombardment is just a nice call-back to my deck on the app, but isn’t really necessary for the deck to work (it’s just good to have, as there are a lot of low-power creatures here!) Falkenrath Exterminator is another of these cards that I think I could potentially do without, but for the time being I’m leaving him in, as well. I was considering going heavier with artifacts at one point as well, but that’s gone by the wayside somewhat, too.

It’s definitely the type of deck that I enjoy playing. Relatively straightforward, no requirement to set up a combo and won’t fall down if some cards get removed. There are a lot of singleton cards in here, so it’s not vulnerable to stuff that discards all copies, and stuff. Generally, it’s the kind of janky deck that nobody expects, and can very often do well as a result! But it can definitely be vulnerable to -2/-2 effects…


Having written all of this up, I am now kinda tempted to try and make this into a much more “streamlined” kind of deck. You know, the sort of deck where you have 4-of everything for maximum efficiency, and whatnot. I probably won’t, of course, as I can’t afford it, but it’s an interesting idea!! The deck originated in an idea that I’d had for making a singleton deck (aside from basic lands), and included a lot more cards from Alara block. It’s interesting to see how it has been refined into the Vampire deck that it is today, at any rate!

Almost there!

I am so close, you guys!

As I previously mentioned here on the blog, I’ve become obsessed again with Star Wars LCG, a game that I hadn’t really been playing while it was still actually a living card game. Because of that lack of table-time, I stopped collecting when the game shifted to include content from Rebels, which was a dumb move in retrospect, because that was the game’s penultimate cycle. For years, the game was just stored up in the loft, though, so it didn’t really bother me.

But this Easter, I somehow managed to convince Jemma it would be a good game to try, and we’ve played it twice, as Empire (her) vs Rebels (me), each of us winning a game.

In all honesty, I don’t think we’d even played it once before the obsession took root, though, and I began to search out those remaining Force packs…

In pretty short order, I’d snapped up almost all of the Opposition cycle, and the very final pack from the game. It didn’t seem so bad, after all! But no – I exhausted all of my online resources in the UK, and couldn’t find any more packs on this sceptred isle. Time to broaden the net!!

This past week, in the middle of sitting my health and safety exam, I took delivery of these beauties – two from the US, and two from Belgium (of all places!) I couldn’t believe it! I had begun to think that the Alliances cycle was a creature of myth, but I’ve now got 2/3 of that, and have finished off the Opposition cycle to boot!

That just leaves Aggressive Negotiations, which I have seen for sale recently, just for about double the RRP, and Allies of Necessity, the golden goose itself! I have tried for weeks to find the latter, particularly once I’d heard it was so rare in the wild, but it seems that I may never get to own that last piece of the puzzle.

If anybody knows where I might find copies of either of these packs, PLEASE let me know!! Until then, I think it’s time to get some more games in!!

The Great Prequel Re-Read, part two

Hey everybody,
I’m back with some more Prequel comics in the Summer of Star Wars! This time, we’re making our way through the early days of the Republic series once more, starting with Outlander: The Exile of Sharad Hett.

Ki-Adi-Mundi is dispatched by the Jedi Council to Tatooine, to investigate some rumours of a Tusken Raider uprising that is purported to be led by the wayward Jedi Master, Sharad Hett. Ki is approached by his friend the Dark Woman who warns him that events in the desert will change him forever, especially in this time of the Dark Side ascendant. On Tatooine, Ki is of course double-crossed by Jabba once more as he attempts to secure safe passage across the dunes, and ends up in a krayt dragon den. Luckily for him, though, killing the dragon is the rite of passage for a young Tusken, and the tribe in attendance is indeed led by none other than Sharad Hett. The young Tusken on his final test is Sharad’s son, A’Sharad Hett. Ki explains the Council have sent him to see if the Dark Side holds Hett in its sway, as they fear with the return of the Sith, he could be involved. It is clear, however, that Hett is not a Sith, and so Ki requests he return to the Jedi fold to help in the coming battle. However, none other than the Jedi hunter Aurra Sing then arrives, and manages to kill Sharad Hett before Ki chases her off. With his father dead, A’Sharad returns to Coruscant, where Ki promises to complete his Jedi training.

I do kinda like this one. There’s a real sense of trying to get some world building and some history going on in the days surrounding the premiere of The Phantom Menace, and despite the fact that we’re once again on Tatooine, we still get to see Jedi in action, and all that good stuff! Aurra Sing is one of those background characters who have taken on a life entirely of their own, as she was created simply to fill out the podracing sequence in episode one, and has gone on to loom large in the expanded universe. I think this is one of her earliest appearances outside of that blink-and-you-miss-it cameo, and we get hints of her backstory that are explored further in the next story.

Emissaries to Malastare is a bit like Jedi Council: Acts of War, in that we have a bunch of Council members on a mission. The premise is that the Gran of Malastare have agreed to host peace talks between the Lannik and the Red Iaro terrorist organisation, but they have agreed to do so during the Vinta Harvest Classic podrace, which follows on shortly after the Boonta Eve event that we saw in episode one. Of course, shenanigans are afoot, as the new Lannik crown prince is a waste of space, so the old guard have joined forces with the Red Iaro to assassinate him, and almost take out the Jedi with them, as the assassins fly through the podrace course (cue “hilarity” when Mace Windu et al find themselves hanging onto Sebulba’s pod…) When the assassins try to kill the prince with akk dogs, Mace takes particular offence as these animals are native to his homeworld. He decides to track down who is breeding them for violence, and the search takes him to Nar Shaddaa, and the Circus Horrificus.

I do like this story as well, but man is it weird. It’s almost like there’s too much story here for a six-part miniseries, so many points (like the peace negotiations) are just forgotten about, and it really detracts from the story overall. However, it is notable for several things, not least being the first appearance of the Jedi Knight Quinlan Vos, who bumps into Mace on Nar Shaddaa early into his investigations. We also have a strong suggestion that Mace is helped by Aurra Sing’s mother, and the Circus employs none other than Malakili, who later ends up in Jabba’s employ. Finally, we have the return of Vilmarh Grahk, who like Quinlan, goes on to greatness in the rest of the Republic run.

It’s definitely worth reading this one for the way it sets up a lot of what is to come, though I guess it isn’t exactly essential reading. When you re-read these things now, there’s a definite sense that Dark Horse either didn’t know in which direction they wanted to take things, or weren’t able to tread too close to the films so took a much wider course with things. The invention of Quinlan Vos, however, was almost like storytelling gold, because it gave the comics writers (mainly John Ostrander and Jan Duursema) free reign to tell the sorts of stories they wanted to, without worrying about whether Obi-Wan and/or Anakin could do something, for instance. I’ve said it before, and I’ll no doubt say it again, but Quinlan’s arc throughout the Clone Wars themselves has become, for me, far more interesting than that of Anakin Skywalker… but we’re not quite there yet!

So we’ve had a few weird stories now, but next time things will begin to get into the proper groove of it all, as we embark on the story of the man himself, Quinlan Vos!

Star Wars card games

Hey everybody,
I’m still so much in love with the Star Wars LCG, but for today’s game day I thought it might be an interesting idea to take a look at the LCG’s two predecessors, the CCG (from Decipher), and the TCG (from Wizards of the Coast), and maybe throw in a dash of conjecture for how a possible new card game could look.

Decipher published the Collectible Card Game between 1995 and 2001. The game works by players battling for control of central locations, which will give them the opportunity to “Force drain” their opponent – that is, deplete their deck. The game is purely card-based, and everything you need to play it is contained within your 60-card deck.

You play cards by generating Force from the locations depending on how many icons are on your side of the table, then use these to play cards to contest locations and so on. The number of icons you have on your side allows you to draw, face down, cards from your deck to then “spend” to deploy cards from your hand – these “resource cards” then go to the bottom of your deck to be recycled.

There were a host of sets released over the six year run, taking in the entirety of the original trilogy and episode one – it is thanks to Decipher that we have the names of many of the background characters in the films, or the previously unnamed “Commander #1” type roles. The game used movie stills for its artwork, which can seem limiting at first, but they ended up paying for models to pose as Expanded Universe characters, such as Shannon McRandle to pose as Mara Jade in several cards.

The game was a huge success, second only to Magic (and sometimes surpassing it) during its run, and has a tremendous following even now. Player committees have produced sets that encompass everything from the new sequel trilogy to the Darth Bane novels, and organising tournaments. It’s quite something, really, to think that the game has been officially finished for more than 20 years but is still going strong.

It’s mentioned in the video above, but the rules are complex. I mean, some games can be difficult to wrap your head around at the first play through, but this one is really, really deep. Even a game like Magic, which can lead to some very complicated interactions, seems to be pretty straightforward by comparison. I’ve seen articles online that call it an “open world” game, and it seems like Decipher basically churned out the cards and players were able to decide upon their own strategy for the win, from traditional space fleet combat to moisture farming. Seems a bit baffling to me, but at the same time, I think it’s really quite indicative of these kinds of older games, which were designed for gamer nerds and almost didn’t try to appeal to the mass market back then. Games could be quirky and weird, and you could make it your own, which I suppose is one of the reasons why it endures to this day.

I never played it, as the game was dead shortly after I really stepped off the cliff edge into Star Wars fandom, so it kinda passed me by, really.

It wasn’t long, however, before the game was replaced by Wizards of the Coast – within a year, WotC produced the Trading Card Game, launched with a set to coincide with Attack of the Clones. Over the course of just three years, there were expansions for the card game that covered all six movies, and delving a fair bit into the expanded universe, as well. We were once again using movie stills, though, so EU stuff was principally realised from video game stills, though Mara Jade was once again featured by a model.

This game has the distinction of being designed by none other than Richard Garfield, who came up with Magic and Netrunner. The game splits play into three arenas – space, ground and character. One person plays as the Light Side, and the other as the Dark Side, and the object of the game is to control two of these three arenas, fighting your opponent to clear his units out of an arena to move in. You generate Build points, which you use to play cards, and Force points, which you use when battling your opponent, but there is also dice rolling involved, leading to a fairly complex game.

At the start of the game, you get 30 build points to get started, thereafter you get d6 build points at the start of each round. When you build a card, you play it face down and allocate your points accordingly, so you don’t necessarily have to wait to play your important stuff, but instead get to work towards stuff from the get-go. That’s kinda interesting, to me. Each unit has three main stats: speed, attack and hit points. Speed is a bit like initiative, and tells you who gets to go first in combat; attack tells you how many d6 to roll, and everybody hits on 4+; and hit points are self-explanatory. Often, units will have abilities which require you to pay a certain amount of Force points to activate.

You also get Location cards, which are built like Units and play into one of the three arenas, granting your units there a global effect of some sort, and there are Battle cards, which are like event cards which you pay for with Force points, and grant you a temporary effect for a single battle round. In addition, Mission cards are built but have a one-time effect, and Equipment cards that you build onto units, and there are rules for Stacking characters on top of each other if, for instance, you have multiple versions of the same character. It’s quite a complex system, like I said, with the dice element and whatnot.

Indeed, both of these card games feel fairly unique in terms of their game play, and with the amount of rules both have generated over the course of their respective runs, it seems fairly dense to try to get into either game. I’ve read that the CCG was once considered one of the most difficult card games to play, actually.

I never played the TCG, either, although I did wind up with quite a lot of product for it, between various starter sets and the like, then shortly after I started work, and began collecting the Miniatures game, I dropped a lot of money on this, picking up a massive amount on the secondary market. I bought booster boxes of almost all ten sets, bought singles wherever I could find them, just because I wanted to collect the game. It’s now confined to a binder in my attic, though I still don’t have a complete collection.

I think the TCG solved the problem of C-3PO fighting a Star Destroyer quite well, splitting the game into the three arenas. The CCG reminds me a lot of Call of Cthulhu in that you’re fighting over a central run of cards, but I do like that implementation as well, and I think it has a lot of the hallmarks of the LCG in terms of players deploying units to contest dominance in a slightly abstract manner.

This brings me on to my thoughts for the future of Star Wars games in card form!

One of the big issues for me when it comes to any kind of Star Wars game is mixing eras. So having Princess Leia fight Darth Maul, for instance, just seems wrong. These games didn’t really police that, and it was really up to players to determine how wonky games could look. The LCG manages it the best way, in my mind, by limiting itself to the Original Trilogy timeframe, but that does mean that a massive chunk of Star Wars history is being missed out. A possible way around this, I suppose, is to have some kind of era mechanic, so the Empire could never fight the Old Republic, but that creates marketing issues, as you end up producing content for smaller sub-groups of your player base. Something that comes to mind, though, is making campaign boxes like Marvel Champions has, and theming these around specific battles. Maybe producing two small-scale boxes per expansion season, such as Battle of Endor for the OT guys, and Battle of Naboo for the Prequel lovers, could work?

Of course, you could also just take the line used by other games, and leave it up to the fans to police themselves…

I used to be all over having a co-op Star Wars game, something along the lines of the original design for the LCG, where you’re the Rebels fighting an encounter deck of the Empire, but I actually don’t think that is really what Star Wars is about. It’s kinda made for PvP play, so I am now favouring the more competitive style, even though it’s not guaranteed that I’d be able to play such a thing!

I think having units fighting over objectives does make sense, but rather than having your own objective deck that is being attacked as per the LCG, I think something more along the lines of the CCG might be nice, where both sides are trying to control a key location or something (which you play from your deck). These types of cards could grant you bonuses for successfully defending it, or could work against you if you lose control of it, and maybe you have to attempt to re-gain control later on. Actually, maybe that’s where scenario play could come in, and the game has a set of Story cards like Call of Cthulhu, but the set is, for instance, Battle of Hoth, and you get more of these per expansion season. So it becomes a bit like Arkham Horror but for opposing players, with an encounter deck that unfolds from round to round, or something?

I’m just typing the first thing that comes into my head at this point!!

I do like those sorts of games though, like 40k Conquest, where you’re not simply duking it out but you’re fighting for control of something. I think that could work well in Star Wars as well, because it solves the problem of Lando trying to fight an AT-AT or something, as well – you’re not directly fighting each other, but instead you’re committing your strength to a cause. The AT-AT might be a physical presence at the objective, but Lando might be working behind the scenes charming the officer in charge to blindside them. Of something.

Actually, the more I think about it, the Conquest LCG could work well re-skinned for Star Wars…

Giving Kill Team a go

It’s long overdue, I think you’ll all agree! The new edition of Kill Team has almost been out for a year at this point, and I’m only now getting around to trying it out. Now, I should say, I was playing against myself with this game, as I wanted to see how it all works in practice before trying to convince some people to try it with me.

I have to say, first impressions are pretty favourable!

Now, it is very dense to try to crack on a first play. There is a lot of back-and-forth in the rule book, and I wouldn’t say the rules are as transparent as, say, Warcry. In the game I played, I went in without really doing my research, so perhaps inevitably I was a bit lost for a while.

One of the big questions we ask when we sit down to a game like this is, what can I do? Now, it’s not always clear (to my mind) what operatives can do on the turn. One of my biggest bugbears with the rules is how badly laid out things are – so the book tells me to give each operative either an Engage or a Conceal order, but it doesn’t tell me what that means until about a dozen pages later. It’s like you need to have read the whole book and understood it before you play.

There is definitely a tactical depth required from the game, which really precludes you from just throwing some miniatures on the table and hoping for the best. There are twelve different types of Veteran Guardsmen, and there are eleven types of Corsair Voidscarred, and they all have some fairly distinct roles to play. Not having a game plan was quite startlingly obvious as soon as things got underway, if I’m honest, and I actually think that it hampered my enjoyment of the game. I mean, there are a lot of tricks that you can do with a lot of these guys, but I didn’t know half the stuff that was on offer to me (that question again), and as a result I knew I was missing out. At least I know what the problem is, so can address it for next time.

I was using the Veteran Guardsmen, because they’re wonderful models, but I wanted to use the Corsairs as I had a good idea for a colour scheme that I want to try out soon. They are also beautiful models, of course, but I think that both teams have suffered from the way that I’ve built them. I had said last year that I’ll definitely be getting a second box of Guard, but I also think I need to get more Corsairs. Not only had I brought the wrong mix, but they were positioned badly as well – it’s all coming back to the planning, isn’t it?

There is a whole host of additional rules that I was studiously ignoring for the battle, because I didn’t want to over-complicate things. All the Tac-Ops, Strategic Ploys and so on just felt like it would be a step too far, really! But the narrative depth that these things give is really quite astonishing, and I love the fact that we have this kind of game, even if it is quite the beast!!

I think it’s surprised me, just how tactical this game is. Rule of cool doesn’t apply – this isn’t a casual game. You need to have a very specific game plan in mind, and you need to exercise that plan as far as possible.

None of this is to say that Kill Team is a bad game. I think it’s just a definite level up for me in terms of how I usually like to enjoy my games!! I’m definitely going to give it another try, of course, but I’m going to make sure that I’ve done my homework first!!