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!

Edge of the Earth: Ice and Death

It’s been ages since I started to play the Edge of the Earth campaign for Arkham Horror LCG, but I’ve not yet had a chance to talk about it here. I started this one three months ago now, shortly after finishing the Forgotten Age campaign, and have so far played the first two scenarios.

The campaign is basically a re-tread of At the Mountains of Madness, as we head back to Antarctica to see what happened out there. There is a huge chunk of story to read through as we start, whereupon we set off with our party. Now, so far one of the main objectives has been to try to keep the party alive, but as soon as we land on the ice, one of them dies! It’s quite grim, and as things move on, the disaster movie feel is real. Some of the party go missing in the night, and we have to mount a search party to rescue them.

The first scenario is a bit fractured, and gives us opportunity to park things rather than play through it in one go (though of course you can go through it all if you’re so inclined). We begin by basically heading to the frozen wastes, and after the crash-landing I mentioned earlier, we then set about trying to find a suitable camp site. The objective here, then, is to explore enough locations to find one with a high Shelter value, which will thereafter serve as our camp. After this, we have the opportunity to set a Checkpoint, preserving the game as it is for another time, or else pressing on with part two!

It took me more than a month to finally get back to part two, where we’re on the trail of one of our party members who has gone missing in the night. Whoever has disappeared from camp has a “possessed” version of themselves that we’re trying to find – we can fight them, at which point they are killed, or we can Parlay with them, to bring them to their senses.

We then hit a second Checkpoint, when something massive erupts from the snow and we have the option of running away, or standing and fighting these monsters! Naturally, I ran away, which meant that I skipped the third part of the scenario in its entirety. It’s touches like these that could never really have been implemented in the previous game model for the LCG, because Ice and Death is too big of an encounter to fit into a single mythos pack, but you’d never have had a pack where you had the option to skip that scenario completely.

We have plenty of Interludes along the way in here, as well, and there is a lot of text to read through as we make our way through the campaign. It’s surprisingly wordy, and I wonder why the design team have chosen to make it so. It’s almost like they have too much story to cover?

So far, then, the campaign has clearly deviated from those of the past, and it seems to break away quite a bit from the main “action” of the game. There is an awful lot going on, and I really like the sense of foreboding that comes through from the whole thing. But I can’t help feeling like I’m not actually enjoying this campaign, so far. Now, I know I’m only really one scenario in, but despite the theme coming out quite well, I’m just not as enamoured of this one as I have been of other campaigns. The sense of not knowing what the best choice is, which came through so well in previous campaigns, is missing here – perhaps because the storyline seems to be trying to re-tread the Lovecraft novella so closely. I do feel like Path to Carcosa was the high water mark for this game, and it hasn’t really been able to get back there, despite the fact that I enjoyed The Circle Undone, too. It is entirely possible that I’ll change my mind, the more that I play this, but somehow I don’t see it happening.

A Knife in the Dark

Hey everybody,
I am now the furthest into the Saga that I have ever been! It’s only been, what, almost a decade since they came out? Having tried a couple of times with the Lord of the Rings LCG saga, though, I am finally committed to trying, at least, to make it through!

After evading the Black Riders and managing to get out of the Shire to Bree, we arrive at The Prancing Pony and immediately there is trouble afoot. This scenario is actually a nice balance somehow, as each of the three quest stages brings in something very different, meaning there is a definite sense of moving through the quest. We start the game with Bill Ferny in the staging area, an enemy with 3 threat that we cannot optionally engage. The Prancing Pony has the benefit of allowing the first player to put an ally card from their hand into play for free, but when it is explored we need to discard from the encounter deck until we find two enemies, and engage them. Ouch!

The second stage is the journey through Midgewater, where enemies cannot attack, take damage, or be engaged. With six quest points, the Midgewater location card can be an absolute pain to deal with, especially if you are turning over a lot of enemies. (There are a lot of treachery cards in this one, so it should never be completely insurmountable, but even so!) The quest itself, however, has us shuffling in one of the out-of-play Ring Wraith cards into the deck, a theme that runs through the whole encounter.

When we get to the third stage, Weathertop, not only does the Witch-King get added to the staging area, but every Nazgul enemy from the encounter deck and discard pile – potentially four Ring Wraiths, and a further two Black Riders. We don’t win the scenario until all Nazgul enemies are defeated, so this can be a huge pain!

Now, whether it was due to my excellent playing, whether the decks that I’m using are just good against this scenario, or maybe I was forgetting some rules, but I managed to defeat this on my first play through today. Don’t get me wrong, it was tough, especially when I was turning over treachery cards that were reducing my hero stats to 0, or killing folks with 0 willpower, or whatever else was going on! My strategy was to ignore Bill, and progress as quickly as possible through the game, but after the first scenario in the saga, I was wary of those Ring Wraiths and so was raising my threat or whatever else I had to do to avoid putting too many in there. My threat was managed pretty well though, with enough reduction that I don’t think it was a huge problem, overall. Again, maybe the decks I’m playing are just well-suited for this scenario?

I didn’t have the right spread of cards this time, so it didn’t feel quite like the well-oiled machine I had in the first scenario, where I almost felt like I was just playing one big deck with six heroes, they played together so well!

Once again, Aragorn was in full-on beast mode, as I had him with the necklace attachment that gives him +2 willpower and gives an extra resource, then I slapped Unexpected Courage on him so he could basically take part in each stage of the game. Legolas wasn’t quite the MVP he was last time, though armed with a Rivendell Blade he was giving enemies -2 defence when he attacked, which came in handy at the end against the Witch-King. I had Eowyn with a golden shield, meaning she could defend for 5, which almost nullified any single enemy’s attacks – a Shieldmaiden, indeed! However, I am seeing a couple of areas where I could make some tweaks to the decks, in particular I think the fact I have Frodo collecting Fellowship resources to almost no end makes me want to include more neutral cards to give him stuff to do.

As I said last time, I’m not scoring this “officially”, but I did end the game with 6VPs in the victory display, so that was good!

Next up, we have the Flight to the Ford scenario, where we have to struggle to get the now-stabbed Frodo to Rivendell. Should be interesting!

Lord of the Rings LCG Custom Scenario Kits

Hey everybody,
I’m still on this massive Middle Earth kick at the minute, and have been delving through my LCG collection to look at all of the stuff that I have for the game. Among the masses of standalone scenarios and nightmare decks, I also have two of these custom scenario kits – Fantasy Flight produced four in total, with the first pair themed around Mirkwood and the next around Moria. They’re a bit odd, I’m not going to lie, but they’re also an interesting addition to the game.

LotR custom scenarios

A custom scenario kit is basically a bunch of encounter cards that gives you the opportunity to build a scenario to play. In the two that I have, there are cards mostly from early in the game’s run, but which have been shuffled around to create fourteen groups of five cards, as opposed to the encounter sets that we are familiar with. They have also been subtly changed, as the format for these kits is a little different to the more regular game. See, custom scenario kits originally came about for Gen Con 2018, and were designed to give Lord of the Rings LCG a competitive variant. In this way, you build an encounter deck and give it to your opponent, who then has to beat it quicker than you beat their encounter deck. So it isn’t a huge difference, as you’re still sitting down to play against an encounter deck rather than a person, but as a way of introducing a competitive variant of the game, I think it works pretty well.

The way you build a deck can largely be influenced by the quest card structure. To begin, there is a single quest card – 1A – to which you can then choose 2A and 3A to add to it. There are three copies of each in the kit, so you can create a number of variations on this. You then need to pick 35 encounter cards to make up the encounter deck. As I said above, instead of encounter sets there are numbered groups of five cards each, and the “quick start” rules allow you to pick seven of these sets to make up the deck. However, the encounter cards also have a cost on the bottom, and in the advanced rules you get 21 points to build the deck. There are some caveats though, in that you need a minimum of ten locations, ten enemies and ten treacheries, so if you’re building this for an opponent, you can’t front-load it with all the worst cards.

LotR custom scenarios

There are two sets, The Wizard’s Quest and The Woodland Realm, and the encounter sets from each are fully cross-compatible. I’m not sure, as I don’t have them, but I don’t believe the two Mirkwood sets are meant to be compatible with the Moria sets. While you can’t combine the quest cards, you can combine the encounter cards to create a massive pool of 28 sets of five cards to create your 35-card scenario.

These kits are designed to encourage competitive play, as the rules insert says, but cooperative play isn’t restricted here. While a lot of the encounter cards reference “your opponent” when choices have to be made, for example, the rules state that the first player in co-op must make that choice, going with the worst possible outcome for the group. I believe a lot of people use these things to deck-test, which is interesting, but otherwise they don’t seem to have a great deal of love, which seems a shame. Even though they’re mostly reprints of cards that have been changed up a bit, I still find them quite interesting and when time allows, I think I’ll be giving them a try with the co-op rules!

LotR custom scenarios

One of the reasons that I find them so interesting is because they basically fulfil one of my earliest crazy ideas for this game – mixing up the encounter sets. I think it was while we were still in the Shadows of Mirkwood mode, when I was playing and finding the game difficult in true solo, I used to think about taking some of my “favourite” encounter cards and building a quest out of them. I can’t really remember how this Frankenstein’s Monster of an encounter would look, in fact I think this was very much in the vein of shower thoughts, but I nevertheless used to wonder how it would work to take some of the sets that are challenging without the kind of “auto-lose” sets and see how I get on. I might yet do that with some of the stuff from Against the Shadow, which I know is quite fun to play around with. I don’t really know the other cycles well enough to try it, sadly!

Of course, all of that assumes I’ll have the time to spare for such hybrid gaming, given that I want to try to get through both the Angmar Awakened cycle, and the Saga boxes!

A Shadow of the Past

After more than seven years, I have finally embarked once more on the Saga play-through for Lord of the Rings LCG!

The last time I played A Shadow of the Past was Spring 2015, and I seem to recall that I didn’t particularly enjoy the experience. The scenario involves the heroes, along with Frodo Baggins, trying to evade the Black Riders as they make for Bucklebury Ferry. There are five Nazgûl in the encounter deck, and a slew of locations. The objective is to explore the Ferry location, but you cannot travel there if there are any locations in play, so it makes sense to have a whole host of locations in the deck.

I very nearly reached location-lock early on, but managed to remember that Legolas can add progress to the quest, and as I also had him riding Arod, he was able to make some effort to also clear those locations in the staging area. It became an exercise in keeping my threat low, though, as I tried everything I could to engage the Nazgûl on my own terms.

Fellowship

Thanks to the decks that I am using, there’s a lot of Ranged and Sentinel, which meant a lot of the time, combat was a pretty straightforward affair. The deck headed by Aragorn could basically support the deck headed by Eowyn, meaning it felt very much like I was playing one huge deck! In fact, the heroes duplicate spheres across both, so it kinda is one big deck! I think this is the first time that I have really experienced that, and it really did feel like one big Fellowship!

I’m sincerely hoping that things continue in this vein, anyway! I wouldn’t say that it was easy, but it was certainly easier this time around. I did start the game with 2 resources per hero, but otherwise played without any of the house rules I mentioned the other day. Whether I end up resorting to house ruling certain things as we go along will remain to be seen, though!!

So. I explored two locations worth 1VP each, but I don’t really want to go in to the whole scoring thing, as scoring in Lord of the Rings is very convoluted, involving adding up your end threat, remembering how many turns you played, and totting up the starting threat for any dead heroes. So I’m going to leave it as a final score of 2VP for now.

Lord of the House Rules

This is a post that I’ve been ruminating on for quite a while now. I’m not the sort of gamer who normally goes in for house rules, they always struck me as a bit dirty, somehow! I mean, I like to play games within the confines of the rules that come in the box (or book), and stick to the “official” way to play stuff. I find that this is the way that the game had been designed and balanced, so deviating from this can cause chaos. In terms of 40k, this becomes a fairly difficult undertaking, given just how much there is to track between the FAQs and errata, but with more regular board and card games, such things can be much easier to deal with. I recently printed off the FAQ for Runebound, and the entire game line (five big boxes, twenty-four card packs) is just four pages. Kinda tells you something about game design in the early 2000s, doesn’t it?

FAQs are one thing, but I have forever drawn the line at trying to alter a game myself. Or so I thought. For a very long time, I was playing The Lord of the Rings LCG incorrectly, but some of my accidental alterations to the game, it turns out, are variants adopted by many folks. Indeed, the game is widely agreed to be quite difficult to play, especially considering the game’s theme attracts many narrative or thematic players like myself. So I have begun to do a bit of research into this phenomenon, and I’ve actually been trying out some suggestions from the global community!

One of the official suggestions for learning the game is to leave out shadow cards, something that I was doing for years, but which I would not think to do anymore. Aside from the fact that they’re quite an important part of combat, with a lot of player cards that interact with them, shadow cards are also quite a useful way to thin out the encounter deck – I know it’s all random chance, but I would much prefer to see a hill troll as a shadow card than have to deal with it normally!!

Lord of the Rings LCG

The game also has an easy mode, which removes some of the encounter cards, and also allows heroes to start with two resources instead of one. Now, I recently tried this, and had Steward of Gondor in my opening hand, meaning Boromir was just a powerhouse. I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing, because while the game is designed and balanced around its actual rule book, the variant is official, and it was just dumb luck. It’s equally possible to play the game as-is, yet draw Light of Valinor in your opening hand, allowing for Glorfindel to become a beast straightaway.

I think I’m a fan of starting with two resources, then!

Taking myself as the only player, even when playing two-handed, and so only revealing one encounter card per turn is, I feel, too easy. On reflection, I avoided a lot of location-lock while questing for around 12 points per turn, meaning it became really quite easy after a while. I did wonder if this was perhaps due to the fact I was playing The Hunt for Gollum, a scenario that I am very familiar with, but in all honesty, I don’t really think so. A lot of the difficulty around this game comes, I think, from how the encounters can snowball right from the off, and it takes the heroes time to build up. Encounter cards on an individual basis are not normally so terrifying, so playing in this way definitely felt a bit like the heroes ganging-up on the encounter set! Not a fan of this.

Lord of the Rings LCG

The next variation is something I’ve seen referred to around the web as “enjoyable mode”, which allows you to pick one card per hero to be in your opening hand. The cards you select must share a sphere with that hero. It sounds good, and in some of the discussions that I’ve seen around the internet, it does make sense: for example, a hero goes on the road prepared for what might come up, so of course they would come with a sword or an axe. Some variants take this further by limiting the cost of that attachment to cards costing 0, 1, or 2 resources. This makes some sense, and I do like the narrative idea behind it. However, in the game that I tried it, I decided that the attachment had to be a physical thing, not a title or whatever, which meant that it seemed to swing quite wildly as to what was useful and what wasn’t. Having Eowyn’s special horse and Celebrian’s Stone meant that I had two heroes questing for 8 between them, which seemed to be too powerful. Not entirely sure on this one yet.

Lord of the Rings LCG

In a similar vein, something I’ve thought about for a while is getting to start the game with a single ally in play, expanding the party and giving you more flexibility in the opening rounds. The reason for this is mainly due to the fact that I have played so many games where I have had a bad start and just couldn’t claw my way back from it. Even when playing Passage Through Mirkwood, the tutorial scenario! I understand that having three heroes allows you to quest, defend, then attack, so in theory you should be able to do everything required in the game from the get-go, but in practice it so rarely works out that way! There is the possibility of getting to start with a powerful ally which has been balanced to not be able to come out until turn 4+ normally, but I think without trying to abuse this, it could give the game just enough of an uplift that it isn’t a kerb-stomp straight off the bat. When I tried it, I specifically picked allies that wouldn’t be a massive benefit, but they had to be unique, named allies. It turned out to be pretty good, I thought, though it does feel a bit dirty to have 4-cost Elfhelm out right at the start, so I’m still debating this one with myself.

Much like the attachment thing, I think it could be a case of limiting this to starting the game with one card per player, rather than one per hero. Or even one card per party? Hm.

There are some very peculiar ideas out there as well. I saw something that suggested discarding multiple copies of the same location, which does kinda make sense for some places, it has always been thematically the case that you have multiple areas of the same place to explore, as some places are vast. It’s an unfortunate aspect of the rules that you can be location-locked with two or three copies of the same card up there taunting you! But I suppose the game isn’t meant to be easy, really.

So far, all of these things have been fairly straightforward things, which don’t really break the main rules of the game. Now, something that I’ve never really liked about the rules is the way enemies attack. Normally in the sequence of things, you need to defend against enemy attacks before you can attack, and this holds true whether you optionally engage that enemy, or if the enemy engaged you because of your threat level. It breaks the theme for me, to a point, where you have an enemy up there in the staging area, you shout a challenge and rush up to engage him, axes or swords swinging, but he can then strike first. As the game grew, there are cards that allow you to bypass the engagement, meaning you can straight up wallop an enemy still in the staging area, and there’s at least one card that allows you to fight before the enemy, but these still annoy me to some extent, because you’re relying on a card spot within your deck to do something that should be a rule.

I’ve read ideas to get around this where defenders, if they survive, can then attack back against the enemy, which isn’t bad really. The possibility to attack first does seem pretty strong, especially if you’re attacking en masse, but the only mitigation that I can think of for this basically makes everyone into Dúnhere – I do like the idea of a single hero being able to attack the enemy first when an optional engagement happens, then the fight is resolved as normal, but it does seem like you’re basically giving every hero Dúnhere’s specific ability. Even tacking-on a resource cost to it doesn’t help, in my mind.

Lord of the Rings LCG

One idea that I had come up with years ago, although I never tried it out, was to have almost a simultaneous fight, where you engage an enemy, declare “fighters”, and then everybody gets to go at it; the enemy damage is spread out as evenly as possible (but prioritises the highest-cost hero), and everyone can then have at the enemy card. It sounds like it would be way overpowered, but in reality, you might only have a couple of combat characters, alongside your couple of questing characters, so some enemies are still going to be difficult to shift, yet will still quite easily see off some allies, and even some heroes!

I never tried it, but now that I’ve come to write it up here, it’s got me thinking…

There are a number of other ideas out there that allow sentinel characters to not exhaust to defend, for instance, or ranged characters able to shoot into the staging area, which is another intriguing twist to things. I think these are principally variants for playing true solo (one deck to rule them all), but it’s an interesting idea that you could perhaps nominate one hero among your fellowship who doesn’t exhaust to do one thing, a bit like Light of Valinor but you could also apply it to defending or attacking in a single combat.

For the time being, though, I’ve settled on trying to have characters who survive an enemy attack as a defender can then deal their damage to an enemy, then the party can attack back as they see fit.

Lord of the Rings LCG

In short, I’d like the game to be not necessarily easier, but I’d just like to stand a chance against it, you know? Far too often, I’ve pulled early cards that have made it impossible to win, and even late game I’ve been sent back to the Stone Age with board wipes and similar. I’ve considered trying to maybe stack the top of the encounter deck so that I’m not starting from even further behind, or having at least one free pass where I just don’t reveal cards for the first quest phase. But all of that feels like it might interfere too much. The game is meant to feel like you’re playing against an actual player, and the purpose of Nightmare Decks was at first to simulate that player tuning their deck in the same way that us players do. However, with the encounter deck “able to play” powerful cards like hill troll on turn one, while us poor souls need to save up at least 3-4 rounds for our powerful cards does mean that we’re starting from behind, all the time.

I do love this game, I really do, but I’d like to be able to play it and enjoy it, not go through all the set-up just to then put my balls in a vice for a couple of minutes, then realise that I’ve lost regardless!

I think I’m going to adopt the 2 starting resources option in all my games going forward, and maybe I’ll sprinkle some other stuff into the game from time to time, as well…

Angmar Awakened #1: The Wastes of Eriador

Hey everybody,
It’s almost two years since I started to play the scenarios from The Lost Realm deluxe expansion for Lord of the Rings LCG, and in that time I don’t appear to have made any headway with the rest of the cycle! Despite some vague recollection that I had played it during the time leading up to the birth of the secondborn, looking at my boardgamegeek stats tells me otherwise. However, with a massive upsurge of interest in the game for me once again, I thought it was time that I got round to seeing through the cycle. I’ve mentioned this previously, of course, but I was an alpha playtester for Angmar Awakened, so have seen a lot of the cards (both encounter and player) in varying stages of draft, all text-only, so I’ve been looking forward to actually playing with the proper, full-art stuff!

Angmar Awakened #1

The deluxe box introduced us to a Dúnedain theme as we embark on a quest to rescue Iârion from the fell wight Thaurdir. Having left the border fort of Amon Hen, we’re now into the snow-covered wilds of Angmar itself, and pursued by Wargs in the first adventure pack!

Seriously, these spectral wolves are the worst. They range from annoying beasts to horrific nightmarish things, and each time we advance the quest they come at us again! There is a very interesting day/night mechanic in the scenario, which inherently prevents engagement checks during the day, and then draws additional encounter cards at night, but the quest stages all interact with the time of day as well, and most of the encounter cards will have some additional effect if it is night, so there is a lot to keep track of.

Angmar Awakened #1

I was using the same pair of Dúnedain-centric decks that I had built all those years ago to tackle this cycle, as I felt it would be thematic to do so. These were the very first decks that I had built to try out two-handed solo, and I do like the whole range of cards in there, it really felt like I was playing one massive fellowship towards the end, as I was playing cards across the board and making use of Ranged and Sentinel to really get the best out of them. That said, it does strike me as a bit weird having both decks as tri-sphere, with a Tactics/Spirit/Lore, and Leadership/Spirit/Lore mix. I’m currently thinking it would make more sense to have the two Spirit and the two Lore heroes in the same deck, for maximum efficiency. The only thing really stopping me doing that, for now, is not really knowing how things like Ranged and Sentinel are split across the spheres. They currently work fairly well together, so I don’t want to knock stuff out of sync by messing around just for neatness’ sake!

Anyway. I was really impressed with this pack, even if it was difficult. It’s still nice to see an encounter deck work well with itself, and the way this quest works to simulate the wargs coming at you during the night is really quite splendid at times! Of course, key is being able to keep your threat under control so they don’t all come at you at once, or being able to hit them while they’re still in the staging area. Luckily, this time, that was the strategy that was working for me.

Angmar Awakened #1

I’m going to try and play more of this, and then do some write-ups as they happen, rather than waiting until I have played a few scenarios and risk forgetting what I’ve been doing! I’m also planning to make a start on the first of the Saga expansions soon, as well, so it’s going to be a very Tolkien-y time here on the blog for the foreseeable!!

Lord of the Rings: Saga Expansions

It’s been ten years since the first Saga Expansion for The Lord of the Rings LCG was released. I can still remember the excitement of reading about the first box, taking us through the first half of The Hobbit, and getting a fourth hero from the yellow, “pipe” sphere! When the box arrived, I gave the first scenario a try, and promptly got nowhere. Two further attempts were equally ridiculous in terms of difficulty, and I have not played it since. There are three scenarios in the box, but I’ve never tried the other two because of this difficulty.

The follow up box, On the Doorstep, proved to be much more fun when it came out in 2013, and to this day I have very fond memories of the first scenario, where characters poisoned by the spiders are turned upside-down to symbolise what happens in the book. Very thematic, and it did somewhat bring my attention back to the game!

In 2014, after much speculation, FFG finally began to release the Lord of the Rings saga boxes, starting with The Black Riders. I’ve tried the first scenario in this box twice, first being utterly destroyed with a thematic hobbit deck, then in my abortive attempt at a full saga play-through back in 2015.

Since then, we’ve had five more boxes that cover the events of the whole trilogy, but I haven’t played through a single one. I’ve studiously bought them all, including multiple copies to get those all-important encounter sets to ensure I could have each quest set up ready to go, but they have remained unplayed all this time.

Now, where Lord of the Rings LCG is concerned, that isn’t entirely surprising. I’ve talked about this a lot on the blog, but the difficulty level ramped up so quickly that it really ceased to be enjoyable for me somewhere around the Ringmaker cycle, and I have a lot of unplayed content for the game. There are certainly two full cycles that I have never played, and plenty where I’ve only played the deluxe box or less. The game, I find, is just brutal from the off, and I’m not always in the mood for that kind of pummelling!

However, I’ve been reading a few bits and bobs about house rules, not trying to make it easy, but just trying to give myself a chance, and I’m finding it interesting to read about how other folks have handled this game. It is a co-op game, so nobody should really care about making some variation to make it more fun. It surprises me at times how much of a stickler for the rules I can be, when I think back to games such as A Touch of Evil where I would actively create my own content to play! So I’m thinking about trying some of these things out, with the idea that I might make a serious attempt to actually play through a saga campaign this winter! I know that I’ve excitedly talked about starting campaigns through complete cycles before, of course, and promptly gotten nowhere, but hopefully this time I can take it easy and just plod through, peppering the saga games into my more regular gaming. It’s exciting to consider, as it’ll be like having a completely new game to discover!!

Hobby Goals 2022 – two months left

With just two months left of this year, it’s time to check-in with the hobby goals and see what I can do to get myself back on track before new year. Let’s just take another look at what I had decided to do this year:
1. Paint more terrain
2. Start painting the Adepta Sororitas
3. Finish painting the Ossiarch Bonereapers kits that I have
4. Continue to paint up the Genestealer Cultists
5. Paint up the Tyranid models that are currently primed
6. Try to sort out the AdMech, Drukhari, Necrons and Chaos Marines, and other bits!
7. Start painting the new Tau army

I’ve got a fairly nice start to the sector mechanicus stuff now, with two of the big kits done. I was toying with possibly doing a third, but for now I’ve moved into other stuff, namely the Haemotrope Reactor, and I am thinking I might try to get at least one armoured container before the year is out. But I don’t want to go too crazy, as I seem to have a lot that I want to get through!

Considering when I last looked at the hobby goals, back in July, I hadn’t done anything with the Sisters, I now have a whole bunch of them done! 30+ models painted across the last couple of months is pretty good going, even if I say so myself! I’m really enjoying the colour scheme as well, it’s quite easy to replicate across the various units, and it’s great to see the army coming together – at long last!!

Okay, so I haven’t actually painted any more Bonereaper miniatures, but after playing my first game at the end of July, I did build these cavalry up in short order. They’re primed and ready, but just not on the list for me right now.

Now, I haven’t painted up any more Genestealer Cultists since that great run I had on them twelve months back, but you never know whether I might still pick up the bikers before Christmas! For the last couple of weeks, they have been back on my radar…

Tyranids made a surprise return to my painting queue a while back, and I finished the carnifexes that have been hanging about for a few years. It was a surprise move, but it was nice to have a couple more models painted up for these bugs. I think I mentioned it before, but I do consider the models that I have as a complete force, so in a way it is quite nice to dip in and out every so often to just add to a couple more to the painted pile, as it were! I have a few more primed models now, but as with the Bonereapers, I don’t think I’m going to be adding any more to the list of what to do by the end of the year.

My Chaos Marines have had a bit of love this year, with a few more models added to the painted pile – the first squad of Legionnaires and the Sorcerer are now joining the Master of Possession! I had hoped to start on the Cultists this year, but as is now becoming a theme with this post, it probably isn’t something that I’m going to get round to soon…

My Necrons have actually had a couple of outings this year, and I’ve been trying to spruce some of the models up to get the blue, in particular, looking better. I’m actually really pleased to say that all of the troops have been looked over now. I also recently finished getting the tomb blades painted up, which is very good! Slowly but surely, I’m getting all of these mechanical chaps painted! In a surprise twist, I am intending to get some more Necrons done – hopefully I’ll be able to get some Lychguard done soon, anyway.

The Dark Eldar seem to have been making a bit of a stealth return, after doing the Raider, plus of course the Wych Cult!

It’s one of my favourite armies that I own, and I’m really excited to have been able to get more of these painted recently. The Wych Cult in particular is good to get to the table, as they’ve been languishing for ages now. Unfortunately, I still haven’t been able to get a game with them, though I hope that will change in due course. I’m also hoping that I might get some more Dark Eldar painted soon, too…

The Tau project is a curious one. I started the year really strongly with getting two units of Pathfinders, a unit of Fire Warriors, and the Commander done within the space of about ten weeks. I guess I was a little burnt out though? I started casting around for other projects as a bit of a palette cleanser, and eight months on, I still haven’t picked them back up. I’m not saying that I’m going off them, not at all, but I seem to have a lot of competing projects and the Tau currently aren’t on the agenda, sadly. But I’m hoping that I will be able to get back to the Sa’cea Sept very soon!!

I’ve got a few projects for the winter that I’m looking forward to getting round to. Near to the top of that list is, of course, this beautiful Ash Wastes terrain. The tutorial video that I’ve been keeping in mind, from Mediocre Hobbies, reckons it won’t be long to get painted, but I’m not so sure – it is me, after all!! But you never know.

More Necrons, possibly more Dark Eldar, and likely more Sisters are all on the list for the next two months, though I’m also aware that we’re approaching Grey Knights season! If you’ve not been reading my blog for very long, every winter for the past 4-5 years, I’ve been working on my Grey Knights, and it now feels wrong for me to think about painting or playing with the army at any other time of the year! I think I will very likely be working once more on these models by December, so I am conscious that I don’t want to be over-loading myself with projects being crammed in just for the sake of things.

Join me in two months’ time, to see where I end up!!