Edge of the Earth: The Heart of Madness

Hey everybody,
I’ve finally completed the Edge of the Earth campaign for Arkham Horror LCG! I think this one was started at the end of August, so it’s taken me three months or so to get here, but I have finally done it. The final scenario in the campaign is a bit like the first, in that it is a long game that offers players the chance of using a checkpoint to check the game halfway through. The difference here is that we actually have a choice whether we play the first part at all, or just rush for the conclusion.

I opted to play it this time, so spent some time studying the great portal before going through, thinking I would learn something that would be of great benefit to me in the next part. We’re near the end now, having explored the city of the Elder Things and made our way to its beating heart. This heart of the complex, however, looks like the Elder Things were actually running from something. Unfortunately, whether through lack of comprehension or something, I spent way too long on part one! During part one, we are seeking runes by exploring locations and paying clues etc, but while some locations allow us to find these runes, others allow us to activate them. There isn’t really any explanation about why we’d want to do this, although the act is advanced when an activated rune is placed on the central gate location – I didn’t realise we could enter this location (I thought I had read that we actually couldn’t), so was playing almost the whole thing wrong! As such, I kinda fluffed the ending so that it was closer to what I would have done, without being entirely in my favour.

Part two then begins in mostly the same way, with the same sprawling map that we have to explore. This time, we’re trying to damage the huge pylons that hold up the roof, hoping to trap the nameless horror in here. As the pylon locations are explored, you can trade the clues for damage, and each has hit points equal to the number of clues; you can also fight them, and their fight value is equal to the shroud value. This proved to be a much more effective strategy, and I had Patrice collapsing the cavern with her .18 Derringer until it ran dry, then using Wither and all sorts of craziness to bring down the roof. Trish was able to get one pillar down, but really Patrice became the star of the show at this point!

However, the last stage of the agenda is really interesting, because we’re no longer placing doom but instead spawning these massive Nameless Madness monsters, which cannot take damage. What’s worse, when we finally bring down the roof, everything is re-organised into a series of ramp locations, and an exit – the act and agenda are replaced with a single objective: Run! We need to test evade to move between locations though, so Patrice was almost left behind when Trish was running.

In the end, through a combination of luck and probably some mis-plays, I was able to escape!

Campaign Thoughts
I can’t say that this has been my all-time favourite campaign, but I think part of this might be down to the fact I had competing priorities, and it took me a while to play it. The extended downtime between parts one and two of the first scenario in particular did somewhat ruin things for me. It’s a very different way of playing, and while the campaign does have a variable length insofar as you can opt to skip certain parts, it is still quite linear as you move through. I believe that the next box, The Scarlet Keys, does things differently in that you have to play a minimum number of scenarios, but you choose which ones and in which order? That seems more like what I had been expecting from this – the box is almost like a hybrid, as it tries to shake up the traditional cycle order we’ve been used to, but it’s almost for the sake of it, as the story being told is still quite linear.

There is a significant chunk, therefore, that I haven’t played with from this box. It makes it great to come back to at some point, and I think after a suitable break that’s exactly what I will do. Knowing more about what is involved now, I think I’ll pick some suitable investigators and maybe try my hand making some different choices in an effort to change things up. Although ultimately I’m going to be playing that scenario where I’m punching pylons and then escaping up the ramp again.

While I haven’t even bought it yet, I suppose The Scarlet Keys will play much more like a board game / RPG style campaign, when you play the scenario, and keep a track of what happened, with the possibility of going up against stuff in a far more random manner? Who knows! 

The snow tokens in the chaos bag were a big nightmare for me, and I think in part I made some bad choices which added far too many in early on. Even though I only ended up with five of them in the bag, they still seemed to come out to see me an awful lot! Snow tokens give -1 to a skill test and force another token reveal, but they are not removed from the bag when revealed (like bless/curse tokens are), and two tokens revealed together is an auto-fail. I seemed to draw a lot during the latter part of the campaign, and I found them increasingly annoying when Trish would have entire turns of doing nothing due to the fact she would draw two of them consecutively. An extremely irritating aspect of the campaign, I have to say!

However, I did find the storyline interesting. It did seem contrived at first – we’re going back, even knowing what Professor Dyer uncovered there. But it was really interesting to see the Lovecraft storyline expanded upon and furthered, in terms of what the Elder Things were up to, etc.

My Team
The two investigators I took with me to the frozen continent were actually a really interesting team. Patrice has been a bit of a discovery for me, as she has a very interesting and engaging playstyle – you discard her entire hand at the end of the round, and draw back up to 5 cards. Playing in this manner means you’ll probably see your entire deck at least once per game, so you don’t need to worry too much about not getting the clutch cards. But the downside is, unless you can afford to play everything you’re drawing, it might not be all that great for you! In addition to discarding useful items due to low funds, you also run the risk of drawing things at the wrong time, so that can be an issue as well, but overall I think it’s a really fascinating investigator, and I would say she is up there as one of my favourites!

Trish is an investigator that I have wanted to use for a while, and did make some effort last year to use her alongside Agnes Baker in a campaign, but left her deck assembled and have now been able to enjoy her for a full campaign here! Survivors are a class that I have trouble with, but Rogues are a class that I am woefully inexperienced with overall, so the pairing aimed to help with that. I have to say that Trish has been very interesting, although unfortunately a lot of her abilities around evading then damaging or investigating didn’t seem to come off for me. There are some really cool Rogue cards that I wish I had seen more of, or at the right time, so I think my next team might well feature another Rogue character!

More Thoughts
I was playing with “old” investigators, of course, but in addition to the campaign box, we do have the investigator expansion as well, with the new guys and gals there. Now, I have already played with Lily Chen from this expansion when I went through The Forgotten Age, and I think it’s a very interesting investigator design. See, each of the five starts out with level 0 cards of their professed class, Lily being a Mystic, but they then level up through a completely different class, in Lily’s case through Guardian. It was only recently pointed out to me that this symbolises the investigators thinking they’re something they’re not, and how their experiences with the mythos changes them: Lily thinks she is reliant on her spiritual side, but ends up resorting to her martial training to get through the ordeal. Daniela Reyes is a Guardian character who levels up through Survivor, symbolising how she thinks she can take on the world, but her experiences leave her struggling to make it through in one piece, etc. It’s a really cool concept, and I definitely feel like playing more of these in the future.

Final Thoughts
I’m struggling to not say that I disliked the campaign, because deep down, I didn’t. I think it’s just so far removed from what I think of as Arkham Horror that it felt just too different. It was really difficult at times, as well, almost to the point of being not-fun. While that has happened in the past, it tends to be few and far between. This time, it almost felt like I was getting the box down just so I could endure a couple of beatings, and then put it back again – which probably explained why I took so long to play the whole thing. Taking three months to play a campaign is definitely a long way from playing Dunwich or Carcosa in the space of a week or less.

I suppose this is something that becomes almost inevitable, as we see games expanded so far, though. Edge of the Earth is the seventh campaign expansion for the game (if we don’t count the core set), so we’ve gone through a lot of design space in that time. I’ve already talked about how one of the scenarios felt like one from the Carcosa campaign, but it does seem a bit like one way to expand the game is to simply ramp up the difficulty, which in a game like this is never good: this might be the first expansion someone buys, after all. We already have a way to make it more difficult, by adjusting the chaos bag. We don’t need to be brow-beaten during the campaign as well!

However, the difficulty could also be seen as on-point for symbolising the harsh conditions on Antarctica, especially when we see members of the party just die in front of us, etc. Now, I have to say, I didn’t really play the Partner allies as much as I would have expected. I found it interesting when reading the designer’s commentary in the back of the book, where MJ says she hopes we grew to care about these people – I certainly didn’t get that attached! It’s curious, actually, because I barely used any allies in the decks, as well – I think Trish has two, though I only ever played one of them (I just didn’t draw the other). Without being a sociopath, I suppose they just weren’t high on my priority list, and while the ally who gives you a base investigation skill of 5 was occasionally useful, otherwise I just wasn’t really taking account of them, and so their deaths were not much of an inconvenience to me!

I said recently that I think I want to try to have a break from these sorts of campaigns for a while, because I was finding that my game time was almost forced into playing this game (or Lord of the Rings) to keep the campaign going. While I do want to have more flexibility of course, and enjoy a lot more of the games from my collection, I am drawn back to this game so much that I think I will probably try to play another campaign soon! I’ve already said that I fancy trying out another Rogue, although I also thought about playing a Mystic/Seeker combo as well, so I think I might well be building some more decks in the near future! Whether I try again with Innsmouth, or attempt the Dream-Eaters, who knows! I do think I need to try and play these campaigns that I haven’t yet explored before I go back again over the older ones, though. But then, a big part of me is kinda wanting to try out Dunwich again!

At any rate, I’m hoping that I can play a lot more games in the foreseeable future, and don’t be surprised if one of them is Arkham Horror LCG!

Eldritch Horror: Cities in Ruin

Eldritch Horror

Well, after Friday’s post about playing more Eldritch Horror, here I am again! This time with another expansion that has only seen the light of day the once, Cities in Ruin! This one is quite the box, I have to say – there’s a lot going on with it, perhaps more so than we saw with the Hastur expansion last time. Shudde M’ell is of course the arch-Cthonian, so the box is themed around destroying parts of the world as these horrible monsters erupt from the earth. I remember playing the expansion almost four years ago now, and being impressed with how it changes up the game – you start at 15 doom, which feels like a walk in the park because it’s so far out, but there is so much that just advances doom, and when you add in the fact that the Mythos deck and other elements are working to destroy board spaces, things can get pretty wild!

Playing with expansion investigators, I took Roland Banks and Bob Jenkins on an unlikely adventure against the outer evil. Roland hilariously kept getting Debt or Detained conditions, while Bob actually solved all three mysteries pretty much single-handedly. He even managed to defeat the Worldrender epic monster thanks to an artifact that buffed him amazingly. Definitely wasn’t expecting that from the salesman, I have to say!

Eldritch Horror

However, this game did feel pretty easy, somehow. The combination of mysteries drawn obviously works towards that, and I think having some where you just need to have encounters, and some where you have to spend the clues but we’re getting lots of those regardless, all contributed to a pretty quick game – just over an hour, from set-up to finish! It’s all well and good having a quick game, of course, but I do prefer to explore a bit more, and I suppose I could have avoided the Worldrender to draw it out a bit longer, but even so! This is the second game, easily, where I haven’t been to the eastern side of the board at all, which I think is something of a theme for me overall. I was thinking that I would try to interact with the Expedition more on this game, but that didn’t pan out, either!

Eldritch Horror

All that said, I have since found out that I have actually been playing the combat rules wrong – I have basically been playing it as a slugfest between the investigator and the monster, but the rulebook is clear in that you only resolve a single encounter each round. Eek! I think I need to play this game a lot more, and get to grips with this side of things!

The Devastation deck is a nice addition to this expansion, and there is a Prelude card that allows you to use the mechanic without Shudde M’ell as the Ancient One. I think Preludes have been something that I have, in general, been avoiding for a lot of my games, so I should probably look into these more now that I have played through every expansion at least once. They’re a great way to pick-and-choose which elements, like the Devastation deck here, to include in your games, and I think I need to try them out some more.

Eldritch Horror

And that’s exactly what I did, almost immediately afterwards! I went on an adventure using just the core set and the Devastation rules, sending Trish Scarborough and Akachi Onyele up against Yog Sothoth! I thought this was a very interesting game, because I tried to focus on getting my investigators to be the best they could through assets etc, but also keeping an eye on the mission, as Yog Sothoth isn’t the most forgiving of the core set Ancient Ones. It was interesting, though, because even while the doom track ticked down quite a lot, and I think three Disaster cards were drawn, it seemed to have such little impact on the game overall. I mean, I was too busy with the main mysteries to really bother to have encounters with the Devastation deck, and without Shudde M’ell’s specific mysteries requiring those encounters, it became very easy to just ignore that aspect of the game going on.

I would imagine that the prelude cards which bring out the sideboards and all of their associated stuff would lead to a more involved game overall, as there are additional incentives to explore those boards thanks to the gates spawning there and so on, but it was quite interesting to me to see just how little an impact these things can have on the game. That said, I suppose it is slightly hit and miss, because there are Prelude cards that alter the game in more subtle ways, such as that one which adds a fifth asset slot courtesy of the Silver Twilight Lodge. I want to try and use these some more, though, as I see them almost functioning like mini-expansions for the game, somehow. The Masks of Nyarlathotep has some very interesting Prelude cards, such as one that adds spells to the reserve for regular purchase, or the zombie apocalypse-style game, or one of my personal favourites, where if the investigators win, actually they don’t – you advance doom to 0 and awaken the Ancient One regardless! I think every expansion except Forsaken Lore, which came instead with additional cards for the base game, has a selection of Prelude cards to choose from, so it could be fun to explore those more as time goes on.

Eldritch Horror

However, that’s not to forget about the actual expansions themselves, of course. As I’ve been playing more of the Edge of the Earth campaign in Arkham Horror LCG to try and wrap that up, I am thinking I’d like to try out the Mountains of Madness expansion once again! I haven’t played with that box for almost 7 years, so it would be nice to get back to these things!

Eldritch Horror

I talked last time about how I want to try to play more and explore the expansions more, and this is definitely going to continue for me as we go into 2023. I do enjoy the game so much, I think it’s pretty much a no-brainer really. Elder Sign is another Lovecraft game that I hope to get to the table again soon. I have all of those small box Omens expansions, but I think I’ve only actually played Omens of Ice once, and the others are still new. Hopefully they can come to the table soon, and I can see what I’ve been missing all of these years!!

I also think I’m going to aim for more Arkham Horror as well, as that’s another game that I’ve enjoyed, but have barely scratched the surface with really. I have recently picked up the small box expansion for it, Dead of Night, which increases a lot of the content we already have in the base game, so hopefully I’ll be able to play more games there as well. Both of these games are what I like to think of as Saturday afternoon games, where you can sit back with the entire table covered, and just enjoy the experience in an unhurried manner. Nowadays with the kids, of course, that isn’t quite so easy, but I used to really enjoy having game days with a stack of games to play, and at least one “big box game” like this. It’s not about trying to rush through and just get it finished in the short time I have when the girls are napping, but rather I’m trying to enjoy an expansive adventure! So I’m hopeful for more of this in the coming year!

Eldritch Horror: Signs of Carcosa

Hey everybody,
Well, November has definitely seen an up-tick in the number of games that I’m playing, after the last few years really seeing that number averaging around 4-5 games per month. So far this month I’ve been able to get quite a few favourites to the table, such as Lord of the Rings LCG and Arkham Horror LCG, as well as a few of the classics like Runebound and Eldritch Horror! I’m very excited about these developments, because they’re games that I enjoy greatly, but which I’ve only been playing sporadically, in the case of Eldritch Horror, of which have been MIA for years, as is the case with Runebound!

Eldritch Horror: Signs of Carcosa

Eldritch Horror holds a lot of good memories though, and it was one of the first games that I played with my wife back in the day. It’s something that I used to associate quite closely with Christmas, as I used to enjoy getting in a game either on the big day itself, or else soon after. Many of the expansions came out at that time as well, or I would keep them until I got to my festive play-through. Recently, I got to play it with the Hastur-themed small box expansion Signs of Carcosa, which I have only actually played once, years back when I first featured it here on the blog!

That seems to be another theme of my recent game nights, getting to play with games or expansions that have rarely seen the light of day!

Eldritch Horror: Signs of Carcosa

Eldritch Horror, as we know, is a game where the investigators travel the world trying to stop the nefarious schemes of a Great Old One. The Hastur expansion very much gives us more of the same, as do all of the small-box expansions for the game, although the small tweaks that we see in this one can still help to make it feel really interesting. The impairment tokens are back, after first coming to the game in the big box Under the Pyramids, and a lot of the new encounters have skill impairments as a fail condition. There is also the new Blight condition card, which forces us to discard allies when we gain it, reflecting the madness Hastur causes. Interestingly, Hastur as an Ancient One only requires two mysteries to be solved for victory, rather than three, but it can be quite difficult to actually solve these mysteries!

Eldritch Horror: Signs of Carcosa

The first one that I had, The Yellow Sign, was the longest to resolve, as I had to spend sanity and gain a madness condition to claim an eldritch token and place it on the mystery. Needing four tokens, and requiring sanity for all sorts of stuff going on, it seemed to take a while. Unfortunately, I think I was one token away when I drew a mythos card which, by dint of the fact I had already used so much sanity in my investigators, drove both of them insane! I’ve never actually had that happen before, and was a bit worried that it might actually be game over. I had been using Jenny Barnes and Michael McGlen, the gangster and his moll, so they were replaced by Dexter Drake and Wendy Adams, the magician and his… assistant? Hm. Anyway, it’s nice to get to use all four of the new investigators – I don’t think I’d used Wendy before, and by a stroke of luck I was drawing all manner of things that made the little street urchin into a combat monster! Dexter gained all of Jenny’s items after sending her to the asylum, and he was similarly tooled up for greatness. That said, he has the very useful effect of being able to send monsters to another gate, so that came in handy!

Eldritch Horror: Signs of Carcosa

Indeed, I don’t remember a game quite like this one for closing gates! Due to Hastur’s reckoning ability that forces sanity loss for each gate on the board, that was another thing to keep in mind as we went about our business! I was trying to use the asset inventory more as well, because I know in previous games I’ve tended to almost ignore that entirely. Often with Eldritch Horror, I find myself coming back to it like this and thinking, “right then, I’m going to try x this time” to get more out of it. I find there’s just so much going on with the game, usually, that some things do get ignored.

At any rate, Dexter and Wendy were able to solve the second mystery, which merely required each investigator to have an ally and a clue, but also to then spend clues to solve. Fortunately, Wendy had been on an expedition and gained quite a lot of clues, so that worked out well for us in the end!

Eldritch Horror: Signs of Carcosa

It’s a cracking game, and even with the built-in timer of the mythos deck and so on, there is still opportunity to explore the board and whatnot. I particularly enjoy the encounters when they allow for you to build up a bit of a narrative in your head, like Wendy gaining the help of a Vatican Missionary while she was in Istanbul. It all makes for some really good storytelling, and is one of the reasons why I keep coming back to this game time and again! Unlike something like Runebound, which I enjoy greatly but hadn’t played for eight years, I have been steadily playing Eldritch Horror throughout this time. I suppose in part it is helped by the fact I had two big box expansions that I hadn’t played until recently, but pretty much all of the expansions have had little replays. 

My stats on boardgamegeek tell me that I have played Eldritch Horror 29 times now, but the most-played expansions are Strange Remnants and Forsaken Lore, each of which has been played 4 times. Cities in Ruin and Masks of Nyarlathotep have each only been played once, and it’s just terrible! Across all the expansions for the game (four big boxes, four small boxes) I have played them all 20 times in total. Considering it is such a good game, and considering that I enjoy it so much, you’d think I would have played it more often! I realise that it can take a lot of set-up beforehand, but it doesn’t actually take all that long to play – I think it was around an hour and a half for the most recent game, so it’s not that bad!

Now, I’ve always been quite the stickler for storing my games and expansions rigidly, with all the expansion material kept in its own box so that I can make that kind of conscious decision to include an expansion in my game. However, Signs of Carcosa does feature investigators that were from the core set of Arkham Horror, which has got me thinking about how I keep these kinds of things, going forward. Actually, it was my recent games with A Touch of Evil that first put this idea in my head, but I’m now considering storing some things all-in, and then when it comes to investigators, for example, I can pick one or two from across the whole line. It’s interesting to me because it’s quite the departure, really, but when there is a game with just “more of the same” content, does it really matter if that stuff is already in the base game? Sometimes, if an expansion gives a new feel to things, then you might not want to have all the stuff stored together, but it’s got me thinking. Another reason for storing it all in the same box is the location decks, which are really quite thin in the base game. I know Forsaken Lore did a lot to plump up the card content of the base game, but it might be useful to have some stuff just always there. I don’t know, I can’t quite bring myself to do it for this game yet, but I am very close to taking out the plastic tray from A Touch of Evil and having most of the stuff in the same box there, as the base game for that is quite choc-full of stuff now!

Anyway, that’s quite a tangent, there!! 

I realise that I often say stuff like, I hope I can play more of this soon, and then it goes unplayed for six months or more. However, I am intending to get more Eldritch Horror played as the weeks roll on towards Christmas. While I am sort of in the middle of three different campaigns between Arkham Horror LCG and Lord of the Rings LCG, I’m hoping to draw those to a close soon and then I can focus more on the sort of pick-up games, with board games making more of an appearance. Don’t get me wrong, I love some of the early Arkham campaigns, but I think they do kinda tie me into having to play that game when I get some spare time, rather than just playing what I fancy!

The Witcher: Baptism of Fire

The war is still raging between the Nilfgaard Empire and the Northern Kingdoms, as the forces of the North begin to consolidate their defense and retaliation. Geralt has been recovering in Brokilon forest, but is intent on searching for Ciri. The dryads introduce him to the archer Milva, who accompanies Geralt and Dandelion on the first part of their journey. Along the way, they team up with a band of refugees led by a contingent of dwarves, headed up by Zoltan Chivay. The band is shadowed by Cahir, the Black Rider who had been haunting the dreams of Ciri in the aftermath of the fall of Cintra. Geralt is initially reluctant to allow him to join them, but Cahir befriends Milva and eventually joints the party. During their journey, they also befriend Regis, who is a vampire with medical talent.

While they are initially headed for the capital of Nilfgaard, due to the belief that the Emperor Emhyr is holding Ciri there pending a marriage alliance, Cahir and Geralt both have the same prophetic dreams about Ciri, clearly indicating that she is elsewhere in the world. As it happens, Ciri is happily a part of the Rats group of bandits, although as time goes on she begins to question her life choices.

Geralt and his party are continually trying to avoid the warring factions as they make their way along the river Yaruga, but eventually are caught up in the thick of things at a battle where they inadvertently save Queen Maeve, who knights the witcher, thereby making his claim to be from Rivia an official title. 

Meanwhile, Phillipa Eilhart works with Francesca Findabair to found a new organisation, a Lodge of Sorceresses, pledging their allegiance to magic rather than to kings. The Lodge includes Nilfgaardian sorceresses, and we finally discover that Yennefer was indeed saved from Thanedd. The Lodge comes to the agreement that they are best served by unifying the northern kingdoms under Ciri, who possesses magical ability and the royal pedigree. Yennefer escapes from her sorceress companions to search for Ciri herself, although she believes by finding Vilgefortz she will find the girl.

 

There’s a lot going on in this book. While I still feel a bit like the narrative choice of telling the story through Geralt leaves a lot of the political aspect a mystery, this book was a great improvement on the second novel. I really enjoyed it, not least because we even get Geralt being a witcher once again! The dwarf party was a lot of fun, and both Milva and Cahir were interesting characters, and I enjoyed their inclusion. The Lodge of Sorceresses was a good way to try to catch up with what’s going on in the wider world, but somehow it does still feel like there is something missing from the overarching narrative here.

The war with Nilfgaard is treated a bit like a backdrop for the story, but it has such a huge impact that I think it needs to have some more attention given to it. It really felt like it came out of nowhere towards the end of the first book, then the second book was such a muddle because of it, and again it forms a large part of the setting of the book without really any big explanation. It’s a bit like reading a story about a group of people on a journey from Lyon to Prague at the height of World War II, but with no concept of why the Allies and the Axis are fighting, just knowing that they are.

I am quite a fan of Yennefer, so I was glad to find out what has happened to her following the events on the Isle of Thanedd. She’s absent for almost a book, really, between the second half of the second novel, and the first half of the third. Now that she’s on a quest to track down Ciri as well, and she’s out for revenge against Vilgefortz, I think book four is being set up as being pretty good! Ciri herself is almost an afterthought for the most part, although we do see how she doesn’t seem to be entirely happy with her lot. Given that she started out with such promise, magically-speaking, and is still seen as a real key to power in the world, I’m really intrigued to see where her story is going.

All in all, book three felt like a step-up from the last one, and I’m looking forward to seeing where we go in book four! As you may recall, I’m reading this with Jenn, Dave and Milou, and we’re pushing book four into January, so I’m back to the Horus Heresy for now…

Ash Wastes Nomads (WIP)

I am very excited to show these guys off, even though they are still a work in progress!

I think this comes in around the 1000 credit mark, though I’m still not entirely sure how the vehicle rules work, as I did wonder whether the dust mite could be causing some problems there. I probably need to look at that, so could end up adding some more guys in there! I still have models to build, of course, but part of me is holding back in case they come out with a weapons upgrade pack. I don’t know the full spec for them, either, so there’s still a lot of work to be done!

But look at these guys! They’re so pretty!

Once these are done, I hope to get started on the terrain from the box. I’ve got another week off coming up soon, so that should be a great opportunity to get cracking there.

Stay tuned for more!!

Old Games

I seem to be on a definite big game high at the minute, folks! Every so often, I really find myself in the mood for playing one of the big, table-covering games from my collection, and I think as we head towards proper winter, that is just intensifying. After it came back on the radar a few weeks ago, I’ve finally had a game of Runebound (my first since November 2014, as it happens!)

It was an absolute blast, and I was excitedly telling my mate Tony all about it as I was playing. It was like the carefree days of 2011, when I was playing this thing very regularly.

Playing just the base game used to feel like a lacklustre experience, but honestly, it’s been so long that it didn’t bother me in the slightest! I think there is just so much to enjoy in the game that it’s hard to have a bad time playing it. So much of it came flooding back to me, as well, that I was really quite surprised at how quickly I was actually able to play, rather than having to check every little move in the rule book.

I definitely want to return to Terrinoth, and soon, but I think I might do so with some of the small expansion packs involved. It surprised me, really, how big the card stacks were for each adventure colour, but I think it’ll be interesting to add some more variety in there, all the same. I have considered doing this in a sort of chronological sequence, as these packs came out in three “seasons”, almost, with a pair each of adventure decks, market decks, and adventure variants per season. But something as formal as that might be better left for the new year.

Runebound is definitely the sort of game that wouldn’t really see the light of day in the modern gaming age, it seems, but I’m very glad to have it!

At the weekend, I managed to make some time to play another favourite of mine, A Touch of Evil. What’s more, it was expanded with Something Wicked, which is my favourite board game expansion ever, I think – it’s very much more of the same, but it somehow manages to equal and surpass the core set, and I just love it!

I thought it was interesting that playing this one seemed to be really quite easy – almost accidentally, I was able to build up a powerhouse duo that killed off the Unspeakable Horror in a single showdown fight round, only sustaining a single wound in return. Interesting, because it almost felt like a let-down, really. I will freely admit that it’s possible I forgot a couple of rules. But all of the equipment that my heroes had was legal, etc, so I’m not sure how I managed to make a monk and a playwright into supernatural monster-slayers quite so easily!!

I want to play this game more, as well, but I also think I need to spend some time with the rulebook and check that I’m doing everything correctly. Just in case…


At any rate, while it’s lovely to be digging into the collection once more and playing these games, which I’ve not had the chance (or inclination) to look at for a number of years now, I think it’s really interesting that I’m playing these old games once again. The board game hobby seems to be plagued with the Cult of New like nothing else I know, and I constantly see online people who are (quite rightly) proud of a growing collection, who want to add new and different games to their roster etc, and who share shelfies of huge numbers of boxes. Impressive stuff, for sure, but when do you find the time to actually play them?!

There’s something really quite lovely, to me, about having a much smaller collection of games (I don’t count individual card packs as expansions, so by that reckoning my game collection is only around 20 distinct games) that I can actually get to play on a fairly regular rotation. True, some stuff like the Star Wars LCG might be going into storage until I can convince the kids of its greatness, but I like the fact that I am actually able to play these games now, and I can enjoy my collection accordingly!!

I’ve definitely been playing a much wider variety of games this year than in previous years, and I’m enjoying that aspect of things, as well. It’s great to be able to enjoy the collection – feeling like a game of Eldritch Horror, so just set up a game! It’s still difficult to balance around the kids, of course, and the game of A Touch of Evil at the weekend was cut a bit short by nap time ending prematurely, but even so!

My goal for 2023 is to increase my plays, anyway. I think it could be good to try to get at least ten games in each month, so that’ll be something to aim for! Of course, I don’t want to turn anything into a chore, but I’ve already exceeded that number for November, so it’s entirely do-able!!

Edge of the Earth: round two

Following on from the first scenario (which comes in three parts), I’ve now taken my daring duo through the next two scenarios in the Edge of the Earth campaign. Patrice and Trish have finally levelled up some of their cards, so I’m pleased to say that things appear to be going well so far!

Scenario II: To the Forbidden Peaks, is basically a hike up the mountains. Coming upon a frozen corpse of an Elder Thing at the base of the mountains, we’ve decided to carry on with the climb as any normal, sane person would do. The scenario sets out the locations in a diagonal line, to simulate the progression up the mountainside. There are, of course, Elder Things in the encounter deck that might try to get us, and the agenda deck will bring out a boss-style enemy that happened to get us just when the summit was in sight!

The rules are quite clever, as we need to thoroughly investigate a location before we can move up, and so much of the encounter deck, including the boss, works off which level of the mountain we’re on. Despite there being a number of enemies in the encounter deck this time, I still found that Trish wasn’t able to do a great deal with the evade suite of shenanigans I’d built into her deck, so she became the primary clue-finder while Patrice basically lagged behind playing that bloody violin of hers. Not sure if I’ve really got the right duo for this task, but it does spin a pretty hilarious narrative of Patrice fiddling away while in the midst of snow and insanity.

In the middle of the scenario, a random member of the party is killed by an Elder Thing bursting from the snow, as well. That was something I wasn’t really expecting, so provided quite a shock factor to the game, I have to say! We also have a bunch of story assets along for the ride with us this time, the items we found when searching for a suitable camp site at the start, and we have to try to recover these from the mountainside as the expedition gets worse and worse.

It’s all very interesting, and I enjoyed how different it was to other scenarios within the wider game.

City of the Elder Things is an exploration scenario that again gives a strong reminiscence of the catacombs of Paris from the Carcosa campaign. The investigators are basically exploring locations that are linked orthogonally, but we have the added mix of clues here, represented by chaos tokens. While it isn’t exactly explicitly stated from the off, we’re basically trying to match pairs of these tokens, and we can usually then spend them for an action to gain a benefit. To advance the first act, we need to spend two pairs, but also many of the locations have effects that might be useful, so I decided to go for a few of these, one of which has added a 0 token to the chaos bag. Hopefully that’ll help to dilute the snowflake tokens, which are bloody annoying!

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned the snowflakes before? They act as -1 tokens, and you have to reveal another token; revealing another snowflake will auto-fail, but the tokens aren’t removed after the test in the way the bless/curse tokens are. So they are a pain in the bum when you have a bag full of them! Very few game effects have so far allowed for their removal, and I can’t tell you how frustrating it is to have Trish tooled up to investigate at something like +8 and then just auto-fail because of two snow tokens. It wouldn’t be so bad if they could then be removed, but no – you can waste an entire turn like this, and it just annoys me.

There’s another mini-interlude halfway through the agenda deck, which sees off another member of the party – after starting with nine companions, three of them have now either been killed or otherwise incapacitated by the weird miasma and so on, which as I said last time, just serves to add to the disaster movie feel of the whole thing!

Nevertheless, the scenario was interesting, and is followed by the final Interlude. Each of these has been an interesting story-bit where the investigator player goes round the camp and chats with the party, and possibly gleans some information from them as they go. There is also the “Scenario ???”, where we have the opportunity to explore a mirage and play a bonus scenario. I’ve only had the opportunity once before, I think, but each time I have tried to stick with the spirit of my party and ignore the mirage, so that’s now gone forever.

Mountains of Madness

The final scenario awaits, The Heart of the Madness, which looks again to be split into two parts. It’s interesting to me, seeing how this campaign has been structured. It has largely been a linear progression still, just with a couple of branching paths that you can ignore if you so wish. I believe The Scarlet Keys is much more all over the place, though, so it’ll be interesting to compare once that is in my hands! At any rate, there’s just one more to go now, so stay tuned and see if my adventuring party will be driven insane at the mountains of madness – or whether Patrice’s jolly violin-playing will allow us all to keep our heads and see it through to the end!

LCG campaigns

If you’ve been keeping up with my blog of late, you’ll have seen a massive increase in my playing The Lord of the Rings LCG of late, including finally getting round to playing the saga expansions. Very exciting stuff, I’m sure you’ll agree! I’m also roughly halfway through playing the Edge of the Earth campaign for Arkham Horror LCG and, having got this far, earlier in the week I finally set about using all of the experience gained to upgrade my decks. Playing both of these games almost side by side has got me thinking a lot about the differences between the two, and I’ve found myself really disappointed with the older game.

I think it mainly comes down to the campaign experience, really. Lord of the Rings was never really designed to have that kind of campaign feel, after all – the monthly adventure packs were of course designed to have a cohesive narrative to them, which only increased during the life of the game. That’s all well and good in terms of the encounter deck, of course, but when it comes to our player decks, they’re pretty much what we want them to be, and some folks do play “progression style” and only use the cards released up to the pack they’re playing, which is pretty much how I think we all played back in the day! But there’s no real sense of progression in terms of your deck, in the same way that we get in Arkham.

In Lord of the Rings, you can play earlier quests with cards from later in the game’s life, and have a comparatively easy time of it all. The core set still has some phenomenal stuff that you won’t find surpassed from later on, but the reverse is also true, and later cards do really help to smooth things out that just weren’t possible early in the game’s history.

In Arkham Horror, however, the player cards are designed from the start to level-up and improve as you make progress through the campaign. I think I spent a couple of hours the other night going through my collection to buff Patrice and Trish, and I found it actually really exciting, finding the upgrades that I could get, or exchanging some cards for others. It’s an obvious point, really, but it’s just great to have that aspect of the game built-in.

Interestingly, it also means that the game is quite accessible, because you can have a deck with clear avenues for levelling-up as you can just buy the higher-tier versions of cards that you started with, but also it allows for people who want to make some narrative choices with their decks as they play, and get really granular as to what they swap out and in. We’ve seen this most clearly with the five Investigator decks that came out a while ago now, where those decks came with higher-tier versions of the basic cards that really telegraphed how to upgrade the deck. There is the possibility for upgrading by increments, and spending your XP over a wide variety of cards by just taking them up a single notch, or you can go heavily in and invest it in the top-tier versions of just a couple of cards. I’ve done it both ways, and find the options are always quite fascinating really.

For my current duo, I approached the task by looking at the level 2 and level 3 cards first, thinking I’d go for a middling split, so have been able to upgrade quite a few things throughout each deck. Of course, it’s also a great point to see what is and isn’t working well for you in the deck, and to try and make the most of things by ditching the “filler” cards for something more usable. Of course, some element of filler might be needed, due to the way the game works – you might want to keep certain cards, not for their actual effects, but rather for their icons. 

The task of levelling up a deck can sometimes feel quite daunting, and playing Edge of the Earth isn’t the first time I’ve left it a couple of games before spending my XP because of that. Sometimes it can be a case of too much choice, and you don’t know where to start. However, you’ll always have that trajectory of levelling up the existing cards to guide you. In contrast, when I’ve come to make some tweaks to my Lord of the Rings decks before now, it really is a daunting prospect because you are faced with the entirety of the card pool to try and figure something out! I actually organise my cards for Lord of the Rings by set release, as well (rather than by type, as with Arkham), so trying to find a certain effect or something can be quite arduous! There isn’t really the same option of having a stronger/better version of an existing card either, although sometimes you might see cards where they have a bigger effect than one that you already have, such as giving a character +3 attack instead of +1 attack, but you have access to everything from the start. So for example, in my Eowyn/Theodred/Merry deck I have had the Rohan pump cards in there from the very beginning.

Now, Lord of the Rings does have boons and burdens in campaign mode, which are cards that get added to the encounter deck, or to the player decks, and carry over between games once you have earned them. So while you don’t get the option to have better versions of cards in your deck, you do get the chance to add some fairly useful cards to your deck over time. Of course, this is balanced by having to also include horrible cards as time goes on, as well (although Gildor Inglorion does get added to the encounter deck, which is always nice to see him). So we have recurring cards throughout, which we very rarely see in Arkham (the only example that springs to my mind in this vein is The Harbinger from The Forgotten Age, which I think pops up twice after its initial appearance). 

Of course, ultimately they’re different games and therefore they work differently. Lord of the Rings works perfectly well playing it as it was originally released, just building a deck and working through each of the adventure packs in a cycle. Many people do prefer to build a deck to tackle a specific scenario, and while I don’t do that per se, I am aware that there are some scenarios that I would never attempt with an all-purpose deck. FFG have now started to add boons and burdens to the re-released stuff, such as the core set and Angmar Awakened boxes, to make them all into a campaign in the manner of the Saga expansions. I’m not sure they needed this, if truth be told, but I think there is that kind of shift for a lot of games to make a joined-up experience and try to get people more invested. I’m a little baffled by the fact that Marvel Champions does this, because it strikes me as being entirely on-theme for you to be able to battle the villains in a one-shot kind of way. I don’t have any experience of the Marvel campaign system though, so can’t comment more fully just yet!

It does make me wonder if anything would be lost by playing the Saga expansions, which introduced this concept, in non-campaign mode. I wonder if the boons that you earn make the scenarios playable, and not having them makes it nigh-on impossible to win.

I have definitely rambled on far longer than I thought I would about this, so I should probably try to draw this to a close now! I think I definitely prefer the Arkham system for its clearly delineated path for progression, both in terms of the encounters that you face and also the player decks and the whole levelling-up process. However, the campaign system can also get really clunky, and sometimes it can feel very difficult to keep track of exactly what is going on, especially as you go through a campaign and you need to recall what happened earlier on. Lord of the Rings as a game is just wonderful, if incredibly difficult, although I must say I have had a whole new appreciation for the game since I stepped away from true solo and embraced two-handed. The game tells a really beautiful story and, while it can often get a bit complex as well in terms of what exactly is going on, oftentimes the scenarios are designed really well, and really draw you in as a result. The only thing it falls down on, really, is how it attempts to implement the whole campaign thing, but aside from the Sagas, I haven’t really felt the absence of a campaign system before now. It’s funny how playing the Saga stuff has made me see all of this, really!

However, most of this is only an issue when you look at stuff from later in each game’s life. When you look at the Shadows of Mirkwood cycle for Lord of the Rings, it tells an overarching story (following Aragorn’s rescue of Gollum from Mordor) without any kind of complicated system of adding and/or removing cards as you go. The most complicated aspect is having to disassemble the encounter decks if you need to re-use some card sets across different scenarios (although personally I just bought five core sets, so have more than enough!) This model is broadly true for each cycle in Lord of the Rings, although the narrative of the game becomes more dense as we move through the various expansions, often leading to complicated set ups.

Arkham Horror, by contrast, sees us adding cards to our deck that we have “earned” right from the core set, with the infamous Lita Chandler, and the first cycle, The Dunwich Legacy, does play around with this as we rescue characters, and gain esoteric formulae etc. Later cycles do become quite complicated – I’m thinking of the Innsmouth Conspiracy, which flip-flops between the present and the past, so requires us to remove and add cards based on whether we’re going back in time. Sometimes you might only earn a card for a single scenario, which feels a bit redundant overall. However, it does intrigue me that it took six full cycles before the game realised that a monthly pack release schedule is not what this game is about, and it serves the game much better to produce a big box of the campaign that has all of this stuff that we can just mix and match across the various strands of play. While I’m currently not all that sure if the Edge of the Earth campaign is all that fun for me, I can nevertheless see that this is how Arkham should have been, right from the start.

It’s funny, though, that they’re now trying to retrofit Lord of the Rings expansions with a campaign mode as well, as they release these boxes in a similar manner. I suppose it’s a symptom of the rise in popularity of these sort of legacy-style games, where we as gamers need to have those links, and have story choices that matter. Unfortunately, we don’t get to make story choices in Lord of the Rings, we just play the scenario that is given to us. Many times in Arkham Horror, we can actually choose when to end a scenario by resigning without actually having completed our investigation. There are real decisions in campaigns like Path to Carcosa, which influence the path that we take through the eight scenarios. It is glorious, but it’s also a lot of book-keeping and can become very clunky in some campaigns.

In a perfect world, then, I think I would have the Arkham-style player deck progression, with the early, story-driven scenarios of Lord of the Rings, and try to just forget about campaigns and boons or burdens.

But that’s just me!

Stocking Up for Winter

New stuff!

I think you’ll agree, I haven’t really got a lot of stuff going on at the minute. So it was only right and proper that I stock up with some projects to see me through the winter!

I jest, of course. I’ve got almost too much stuff to contend with, so you may well think me mad for getting yet more! I’ve made a bit of a concerted effort to catch up with the Necromunda releases, of course, after finally picking up the Ash Wastes box last month, and I’m really excited by the new promethium tanks that have recently come out. It’s a kit very much in the vein of last year’s Underhive Market, the sort of nobody-expected-it thing that Necromunda seems to do so well!

It’s great to have the Goliath bikes, of course, after I’d had so much fun building the Orlock buggies. I’m kinda looking forward to trying out this new branch of vehicle combat in the game, though unfortunately my regular Necromunda buddy James doesn’t seem too keen. I might have to try to convince JP to give the game a try, in the same way that he infected me with Middle Earth SBG!

Speaking of which, I’ve also treated myself to the Mordor Troll! I wouldn’t say that my painting of the Mordor army is going well, but it’s slowly getting along, so I thought I’d get this thing to help inspire me! It’s a beautiful model though, so I’m looking forward to getting round to it soon! I find the older models, such as the Orcs, very difficult to paint because of the fact they’re so chunky and, to some degree, lacking detail. It’s hard to work out what to paint, what stuff is meant to be, etc!

New stuff!

As I said though, I’m very excited for the promethium canisters. I’ve said before that I was initially a bit hesitant about the Ash Wastes stuff because the board seems so open and stuff, so getting additional bits like this is really quite exciting! I’m sure the addition of some containers and barrels will round it out nicely, anyway! I’m also deeply impressed that the box actually contains four of these tanks – I thought it was only two! So that’s very good!

I’ve not had a massive opportunity to read through the new campaign book yet, but having the briefest of flick-throughs has shown it to be very impressive. It has the rules for Escher and Goliath vehicles, which is nice, and has a new campaign, which is always welcome! Tantalisingly, it is part one of the Succession Campaign, so I’m really excited to see what’s in store for us next!

Reading through the first few pages of the lore and background has been very good, though. I really like the fact that the great rift has come to Necromunda, and it is correspondingly crazy – with full-on Chaos uprisings and all sorts! Reading the short bit that I have so far took me right back to my teens, and Judge Dredd and stuff. Very excited to read up on all of this, I have to say! I think the lore parts of any Necromunda book are woefully under-read by me, much like with the codexes as well, so I’m hoping to try to turn over a new leaf here and really delve in to this stuff!!

Suffice it to say, I’m a very happy boy today!

Horus Heresy: War Without End

Hey everybody,
After what feels like an age, I have now finished War Without End, the 33rd instalment in the series. It’s another anthology, in what feels like a very grindy, middle of the road space within the overall storyline. I don’t really have anything against short story anthologies, don’t get me wrong, but a lot of the time with the Horus Heresy, these stories can be very hit and miss, and they rarely seem to advance the overall storyline.

There are some interesting inclusions in here. I think the stand-out for me is The Laurel of Defiance, which is an Ultramarines story centred on Lucretius Corvo (who will go on to found the Novamarines chapter after the Heresy is over and done with). It’s a great story that shows us the Ultramarines as the statesmen and politicians they are meant to be when all war is over, and Corvo’s own feelings on that are quite interesting, to say the least! We see the Ultramarines during an awards ceremony, and Corvo reflects back on the action that got him there, where he and his legionaries took down a Word Bearers’ possessed Titan.

Allegiance, by Chris Wraight, is another good entry, although I did struggle a bit to get through this one. It shows a Thousand Sons legionary who has not turned from the Emperor, being rehabilitated into the White Scars legion. Around that main storyline, we see the continuing purge of the disloyal White Scars following the Scars novel, where several legionaries attempted to introduce warrior lodges in the same manner as the Sons of Horus.

In terms of continuing the storylines from previous novels, Gunsight brings us back to the assassin Eristede Kell following his failed mission to kill Horus in Nemesis. I really liked that book, contrary to a lot of popular opinion, it seems, and I really liked the way this story let its madness unfold as well. The ending was quite a surprise, too, but along the way I think it was really cool to see how the menials and the serfs of the Warmaster’s legion have reacted to his treachery.

Another story that deals with the goings-on within the Vengeful Spirit is Twisted, which follows the Warmaster’s equerry Maloghurst as he is hounded by a daemon. This builds on some of the threads from the Vengeful Spirit novel, specifically Maloghurst’s dabbling in the Warp and his creation of the Luperci. It’s an interesting story because it shows us the influence the Davinite cultists are having on the Sons of Horus, and while the whole heresy is undoubtedly traced to Horus and his lust for power, you do get the feeling here that actually these cultists are perhaps almost more to blame for the whole thing, with their corrupting influence on the legiones astartes. Interesting stuff!

Among these are stories about the Alpha Legion, Dark Angels and Iron Hands, among others, as well as the little people of the galaxy. There’s a story about the lodges on Davin that acts as a prequel to The Damnation of Pythos, another book that I know not a lot of people like. There is a story from Graham McNeil that ties in to his Vengeful Spirit and the Titan lords featured in that book, which was all a bit convoluted at first, but interesting in its way. We also have a Night Lords story that acts as a prequel to the next novel, Pharos. I had been enjoying how the Night Lords were just peppered through several novellas so far, as we follow the Thramas Crusade almost as a side event, but sometimes, these stories are just too gruesome.

Overall, there were some interesting stories here, if you’re really invested in the massive sprawl of the Heresy as a series, and you’re following along all of the various plot threads and such. I have to say though, at this point in the grand scheme of things, it feels like we’re just stuck with nothing really going on, and it is all starting to become really stale. Yes, it is enjoyable to see these slices of life of the serfs aboard the Vengeful Spirit, or seeing the flashbacks for Captain Corvo the Titankiller, but there is a very definite sense, for me, of “just where is this going?” I sometimes wonder if the Heresy has got too large a cast, although this was perhaps unavoidable given that all eighteen legions have a starring role. There is just too much ground to cover, unfortunately, and the pace of things now that we’re in the 30s is really starting to show.

Next up is Pharos, though, and I have a hope that this one will begin to point us in the right direction again. Fingers crossed, and all that!