December 2022 Retrospective

And just like that, 2022 is over. Well, I suppose there are a few more hours to go, but you know what I mean. It’s been quite the month, as well, with quite a decent spread of stuff going on!!

To start with, I was quite impressed with myself for not only building four investigator decks and planning to play the full Dream-Eaters campaign for Arkham Horror LCG, but then making good on the whole thing and just steaming through it in pretty short order! I think my recent track record with Arkham campaigns taking me months to complete didn’t really make me all that positive! But there we have it. I haven’t yet picked up The Scarlet Keys, and I have played most of the Innsmouth campaign, so I’m in the curious place now where I don’t really have any new Arkham content to play…

I really enjoyed playing this one, which I think was important because I hadn’t particularly enjoyed Innsmouth (because of my investigator choice, I think) or Edge of the Earth (because of the story, I think), so it was good to get the love back! I’ve talked a bit recently about going back and playing some of the earlier stuff again, as I definitely preferred those campaigns, so I can see myself making another run at Dunwich in the new year! I do want to retry my luck with Innsmouth, as well, so I think it will possibly be a while before I do actually get round to buying The Scarlet Keys, but equally I am looking forward to seeing how that one works. There’s a lot to be excited about right now!!

I’ve recently had quite a huge splurge on Marvel Champions stuff though, getting a hefty injection of content for my collection between my birthday and Christmas, so I should probably look at playing more of that in the future as well! It’s mad, when I think about it objectively, how I’ve gone from zero to almost a full collection of this stuff in the space of not very long. I’ve definitely been enjoying the game, though, and have spent a couple of evenings sleeving up the new arrivals, so I have the Red Skull and X-Men boxes ready to go now. I can’t quite decide which one to go for first, though!! I’m not really interested in playing them as a campaign, having tried the Thanos campaign but being really underwhelmed with it. I think I’ll probably go towards Red Skull for starters, though, as I have a lot of Avengers heroes that I want to try out still. It doesn’t feel right yet to move on to the mutants…

Marvel does seem to have been on the radar a lot more of late, though, as I’ve finally started to chronicle my thoughts on the Phase 4 stuff we were watching back in the autumn. I think of myself very much as a casual Marvel fan – I’m more likely to froth at the mouth where Star Wars is concerned, than any inconsistencies in the MCU. Yet another reason why my sudden all-out acquisition of the Marvel Champions stuff is a bit mad. But it’s fun, and doesn’t take a lot of concentration to watch this stuff, so I can have it on while building or painting miniatures, or whatever. I’ve got some more catching up to do, though, before I can get to the end of this Phase, so there’s more to come in the new year, hopefully before Phase 5 kicks off in February with the next Ant Man film.

I mentioned Star Wars just now, and I did spend a decent chunk of the month reading the recently published Shadow of the Sith, which was very good! The sequel trilogy has been maligned, much like the prequel trilogy was back in the early 2000s, so I’m personally looking forward to 2035 (or so) when I expect the fans to start enjoying it in favour of whatever other new thing is currently causing the gnashing of teeth and rending of garments. For me, the sequels aren’t great, but it’s what we have so I’m trying to find the positives. Books like this one help to tie in the new landscape that Disney has blasted into being, so I’m glad that some effort is being made to actually give a backstory to the films. It’s a difficult position to take, but I’ve come to peace with the fact the movies exist, no matter how disappointed I am with the decision to sweep away the old EU.

On an unrelated note, I need to get my act together and finish watching Andor! I’ve watched the first six episodes, but it just dropped off my radar and I’ve not had the inclination to get back to it! Shameful.

At any rate, I’m currently reading The Wraithbone Phoenix, the latest book in the Warhammer Crime series. I started it on Christmas Eve, as an early Christmas present, but I have to say, it’s been a bit of a slog up to now. I think I’m around halfway through, so it shouldn’t be too long before I come back here with some more thoughts. It’s a bit of a shame, though, as I really loved the first book in the imprint.

Speaking of shame, let’s talk about my hobby projects from the month! I’ve really put this whole thing on the back burner, it seems, which is a bit sad really as I had high hopes for another hobby-ful festive period! I have completed the five sword-and-board Lychguard that I had begun to work on back when I moved house, more than three years ago. Considering Lychguard are my favourite Necron models, I’ve actually had some real trouble with these guys, and the warscythe group too, but I’ve finally put those to rest now.

Drukhari have been sneaking into the painting queue for quite a few months now, and I’m so glad to get these three finished as the models were just horrible to paint. Part of that is probably down to my prep of them, but a big part is just the poor finecast material. Again, I’ve had these hanging around for years (at least two of them were built before I moved), so it’s been good to reach into that backlog and just get stuff done. I had planned to get five Wracks finished, then get to work on some more Wych Cult stuff before the year end – Hellions, and another Venom. Well, suffice it to say that the Wracks are close, but not yet finished, so… yeah…

Interestingly, I haven’t done any work on the Grey Knights this year. I often think of them as “my Christmas army” and definitely enjoyed playing games with them this time last year, but they’ve kinda passed me by this year. However, I think there have been a couple of things going on that have perhaps been at work here. First off, I have definitely been playing more other games this year, and have been enjoying a far wider selection of things than I have in years gone by, which has potentially taken time away that would otherwise have been put into painting miniatures. I’ve also just felt like the days have gone by too quickly to really accomplish much of anything!! But also, both of my regular gaming buddies have moved slightly away from 40k, JP towards Middle Earth and James into Age of Sigmar. So my 40k outlets have diminished a bit, though neither of them refuses to play of course (I think both have had significant 40k projects from Santa, too, so they’re not going anywhere!) But it’s been five months since my last game of 40k, and I think it’s beginning to show on me…

I’m sure when I come to think of my 2023 hobby goals, however, I’ll be fired up to get stuff done once again!!


That’s December, so how has 2022 been, overall? I’m a word: odd. My WordPress stats tell me I’ve made 181 posts this year, which is quite good (I posted every day in May, which probably helped!) and my views are up 30% on last year. How wonderful! I know it’s easy to say, but I really do this for the hell of it, and not for the views – if you do read my drivel, I thank you! It’s not like this blog is any kind of revenue stream though, so the views don’t really come into play, I just post stuff regardless! (If you’re interested, my most-viewed post of all time is about Tau support systems, which dates back to 2018. Even all these years later, it keeps getting looked at!)

I touched on this earlier, but I seem to have had a bit of a balance-shift away from the hobby treadmill and instead I’ve moved back to more regular board and card games. Of all the games that I’ve played this year, the living card games have come out on top once again, probably because co-op, solo play is the easiest to effect, and I don’t need to arrange anything in advance.

In all fairness, it has been quite a productive year for me. I think I have benefited from the fact that the kids are just a little bit older now, and even though at 3 and 18 months they can be demanding, we’re in that sort of routine with them both where we can actually get stuff done. I’ve been able to play a lot of games, get a lot of painting done, and I’ve read quite a few books over the course of the year, so I’m quite pleased with that!

According to the stats on boardgamegeek, I’ve played 106 games this year, which doesn’t really seem a lot, I know. Almost nine a month? Hm. There are some very interesting titles among those games, of course, such as getting in a game of Warhammer Underworlds, trying out the Ghostbusters game, I even got to play Rune Age and Runebound once again! 2022 has definitely been a year or rediscovery for me, of breaking the run of games going unplayed. Looking ahead, I’m planning to initiate a bit of a plan to get more games played, but not something that relies on me playing three or four campaigns of Arkham Horror LCG to bump the numbers up!! It does irk me a little when I look at my games, and how much a lot of them have cost, but how many of them are going unplayed. I’m therefore not trying to set out some kind of stringent plan that must be adhered to, but instead I want to come up with something, a bit like the hobby goals blog that you’re all doubtless looking forward to reading tomorrow, that will focus the mind so that I can just make sure I do get to enjoy all of these games that I’ve bought!

Reading
My major project for 2022 was the Summer of Star Wars, where I re-read the prequel era stuff. There were a couple of things that I had never read before, but by and large I was reading stuff that I was fairly-to-very familiar with. I think it was a little over 5 months, in total, to read from Darth Plagueis all the way through to Dark Lord: The Rise of Darth Vader, and while it was a lot of fun to read some of these things that I hadn’t read for ages I think I went a bit overboard at times, and was reading a lot of stuff for the sake of it, etc. Normally, when I would re-read the prequel stuff, I had formed “my version” of the continuity, leaving out the boring stuff, and just sticking with the good stuff (like Cloak of Deception – yes, it’s an amazing book!)

I’d started the year with the new Thrawn: Ascendancy trilogy, which was a pretty good series if truth be told. I think reading it back-to-back like that was a good benefit, as otherwise I suppose it might have lost something. I had been surprised at how un-Star Wars the trilogy felt, and yet it remained great! I’ve also pretty much finished the year with Star Wars as well, reading Shadow of the Sith and being pretty impressed, I have to say! The sequel era is still like some kind of weird wasteland though, and I definitely want to have more of the timeline filled out there – more info on what is going on between the trilogies, especially. Mystery is good and all, but when it isn’t paid off, there’s just no point!!

In addition to all the Star Wars stuff, I’ve made a return to the Horus Heresy, and have made a start with reading The Witcher books with my fellow bloggers Jenn, Dave and Milou. We’re poised to start on book four in the new year, so it’ll be interesting to see where the series goes as I have no prior knowledge for what to expect, having never really been into the gaming side of it all.

Gaming
This year has been pretty spectacular in many respects. In addition to the usual stuff, 40k and Lord of the Rings, Arkham Horror LCG etc, which have made regular appearances for the last few years, I’ve really rediscovered loads of games, bringing a lot of old favourites back to the table such as Runebound, A Touch of Evil, Eldritch Horror and even the Star Wars LCG!

The game that has stood out for me by far is Marvel Champions, which was a fairly late discovery as I only started to play with it in August. It has proven to be really easy and really enjoyable to play though, and I’m surprised I hadn’t looked into it sooner. Over the latter half of the year, especially Christmas time, I’ve picked up almost the whole line for the game, with just a few odd packs still on the shopping list. By virtue of it being a quick game that is fairly self-contained, it is up there as one of the games that I have played the most this year.

Vying for the top spot of Most Played Game of 2022 is Arkham Horror LCG, which has seen a lot of table time by virtue of having played through three whole campaigns, plus part of a fourth, as well as giving some of the stand-alone scenarios a try. I talked about this recently, but I would like to play some of the early campaigns again, so have started to think about who I would like to take with me through Dunwich or Carcosa again – I have played Dunwich twice already, so I think I might try Carcosa again. And given the fact that I really like it when Arkham Horror takes place in Arkham, I think I might go for The Circle Undone once more as well. I’m planning to pick up The Silver Keys in due course as well, though, so I’m sure that will appear on the radar. 

I am planning to try to get much more regular gaming in throughout 2023 though – getting to play with some of those big-box classics has really made me want to play more, if for no other reason than to try and get my money’s worth from them! I have a lot of games, and they aren’t exactly cheap either, so it would be great if I could actually play more with them. I’m not really into discovering new games these days, as I know a lot of tabletop gamers can be, so I’ll have a blog about my plans for the coming year coming up early on in January!

Painting
Ah yes, the dreaded Hobby Progress 2022 update! Let’s remind ourselves, shall we, of the goals that I’d set at the start of the year…

  1. Paint more terrain
  2. Adepta Sororitas – paint more models
  3. Build & paint the Ossiarch Bonereapers units I have
  4. Continue to paint Genestealer Cults
  5. Paint up those Tyranids that have been primed
  6. Try to sort out the other armies!
  7. Start painting a new Tau army

Well, in going over those points, I was struck by how much I actually have done towards these goals. It’s not like I’m going to get some kind of bar chart out, but I think I have done a fair bit within every point to say that it has been a success, this year!

To start with, I have painted more terrain. I spent almost two-thirds of the year painting up the Galvanic Magnavent, but it’s finally finished, so that’s the second big piece of terrain that I can firmly tick off the list. To add to this, I’ve also finished off the Thermic Plasma Conduits, and the first Haemotrope Reactor. In addition, I’ve also painted up the entire box of Ash Wastes terrain for Necromunda! So I’m quite pleased with the first point there, getting a number of kits finished.

The Adepta Sororitas were something of a bete-noir for me for a long time, as I had gone through so many different ideas for colour schemes for them. After setting myself the goal this year of painting them once more, I floundered for a long time, and I think around Easter I did consider just off-loading the whole lot, as it just didn’t seem like it was going to happen for me. But then, during the Wimbledon final, I stripped the paint off those models that I had tried a few schemes on and, in very short order I was able to get the squad of ten finished. Since then, it’s kinda snowballed for me, and I’ve been able to get a good chunk of models painted up! I’m very pleased with this one, and would go as far as to say it’s been my biggest success of the year! 

As far as the Bonereapers are concerned, however, I have built up five cavalry models, and primed them. And that’s where it ends… Genestealer Cults have had the Nexos painted, which I know is just one model, but still! I do have quite a few models left to paint here, and I would like to try to get back to these guys at some point. Tyranids were a bit of a surprise, as they’re an army that’s always in the back of my mind, but I never seem to make any effort with them. However, this year I did get two carnifexes finished, which was a real delight – horrible models to assemble, but they look great when they’re finished!

In terms of my other armies, I have done some work to thin the ranks, getting the Blood Angels sold off. I still have my Deathwatch and Tempestus Scions, which I’ve just not been able to part with as I love the models so much, but we’ll have to see on that front. I have a good amount of AdMech to keep as a single army, so I might get round to finishing off painting some of those models at some point. I have actually spent a good chunk of the year painting up Drukhari, getting my Wych Cult models off to a better start, as well as that Raider, then the Grotesques and Wracks most recently. In terms of my Necrons, I have finished off the Lychguard and Tomb Blades, which have been projects in varying stages of half-completion for years, and I have done some more work on the Immortals to make their weapons look nicer. Chaos Marines have had some love too, with the Sorcerer and my first ten-man squad being completed. To top it all off, I’ve been able to paint two of the Kill Teams from the big boxes, as well. So within the catch-all heading of “other stuff”, it’s been pretty good!

Finally, my Tau army. It all started so well, but I think maybe I had been too blinkered in just painting Tau for the first few months of the year, and so I grew a bit listless and stuff. It’s a very exciting project for me, though, and I have recently begun to think once again about getting the brushes out for these guys. I think it’s a better idea to take more of a measured approach this time, though, and not just go all-in but try to keep things mixed-up for variety. Maybe a couple of Tau things, a couple of Sisters, some Drukhari or Necrons, maybe even some Genestealers, and see where we get to. But I have painted up a fairly decent amount of stuff over those first few months, so I think it’ll be nice to add to that once again.

All in all, then, I’m quite pleased with my progress during 2022. I’ve been totting up the bought vs painted figures, and in terms of boxes painted, the painted far outweighs the bought (14 bought and 37 painted), but in terms of the models, if we assume the distribution for some stuff like Kill Team boxes, I’ve actually bought 178 models, and painted 179! So that’s very interesting indeed!

This is all getting very wordy now, though, so I think I will stop rambling now. Have a wonderful new year, everybody, and stay tuned for more rambles in 2023! You know you love it!

Star Wars: Shadow of the Sith (a review)

Hey everybody,
Last week, I finished reading Shadow of the Sith, a new novel in the sequel-era of Star Wars that seems to pull together a lot of the story whisps that we’ve been getting pretty much since 2015 and The Force Awakens.

The book begins with a young couple, Miramir and Dathan, escaping from some nebulous threat with their young daughter Rey. Pirates attack, but they are saved by the New Republic. However, the New Republic squadron that helped them is unable to provide further shelter, so they are sent on their way to a former Alliance collaborator. Meanwhile, we meet Ochi of Bestoon, the Jedi hunter from Episode IX, who is trying to find the lost Sith planet of Exegol to heal himself. His chance comes when some Sith cultists arrive, telling him to bring them “the girl”, and giving him a Sith dagger that seems to be somewhat sentient.

While Ochi is recruiting muscle, he is overheard by Lando Calrissian, who decides he must help the family as he has been unable to rescue his own missing daughter, Kadara. Meanwhile, Luke Skywalker travels with Lor San Tekka to Yoturba to investigate a possible Jedi Temple site, and discovers some fragments of kyber crystal along with a damaged Sith holocron. Luke has been plagued for weeks with visions of a dark wasteland planet, so travels to Tython where he has the strongest vision yet – indeed, it is only through his father’s spiritual intervention that he is able to return to reality. Lando arrives and recruits Luke’s help in tracking down the family, so they head to the New Republic base where they find out the family was given directions to the former collaborator. 

However, Ochi almost beats them to it, but fortunately Miramir is able to hijack a ship and flee. Luke is attacked by a mysterious figure in a mask wielding a scimitar-shaped lightsaber, the blade of Darth Noctyss, who is clearly after the fragments of kyber crystal he has recovered. With the family gone, Luke and Lando travel to an acquaintance of the Jedi Master, a former Acolyte of the Beyond who is able to track ships through hyperspace. Komat is able to track the family to a refuelling station, but Ochi, with the help of the Corporate Sector Authority troopers, also gets to them. Turns out, Dathan has come up with a plan to deal with the pursuit once and for all – stealing Ochi’s own ship being part one. Thanks to Lando and Komat’s help, they are able to get away. Luke has left to track down his attacker, Kiza, and finds her in a ruined Trade Federation core ship. The mask she wears is possessed by an ancient Sith lord, and imbues her with power as the Sith aims to be reborn. During their fight, Luke believes both Kiza and the mask to have been destroyed and so returns to Lando in time to help the family to flee.

Miramir and Dathan return to Jakku, where they strike a deal with Unkar Plutt to look after Rey while they attempt to deal with their pursuers once and for all. Luke, Lando and Komat are confronted by the spectre of the ancient Sith lord using Kiza’s corpse to attempt to find a way to Exegol to be reborn, but Luke is able to destroy the mask and defeat it once and for all. Lando learns that the family have possibly travelled to Jakku, so follows them. However, Ochi has got there first, and already killed both the parents in orbit. Believing them to have hidden Rey on Pasaana, thanks to some beads Miramir dies holding, Ochi travels to the desert planet but, filled with the power of the Sith dagger, his judgment is clouded and he is swallowed by the quicksand there.

Luke and Lando bury Miramir and Dathan on a former smuggler’s hideout world, then travel to Pasaana where they find Ochi’s ship but the trail has seemingly gone cold. Lando decides to stay on-world to continue his search both for Rey and his own daughter, while Luke continues to build his Jedi Temple on Ossus.


There is a hell of a lot going on in this book, and I think that’s one of the reasons why I like it so much. It does have a fairly narrow focus, with just Luke and Lando chasing after Rey’s parents, with some hijinks from Ochi along the way, but otherwise it’s not exactly a galaxy spanning epic in the vein of some of the Bantam books from years ago. But the story is dense, and there are so many call-backs (and call-forwards, if such a thing is, well, a thing) that I can’t help but love it.

First off, it does feel a bit like Rey’s parents are a bit of a mcguffin for the whole thing, and there’s no real character behind them. They’re obviously fleeing from something nefarious, but we don’t really get to know what. It is inferred that the Sith cultists from Exegol want him back, possibly because he is a loose end in Palpatine’s return, maybe because he could potentially lead people to Exegol, but it is never explicit, and after a while it begins to wear thin. I feel like I would have wanted more meat on those bones, but never mind. We do get the flashback scenes, where Rey is saying goodbye to her parents, and then reaching for the sky and their departing ship, which nicely serves to link into the sequel films in that way.

I think the main tie-in comes with Ochi from Episode IX, and of course, the droid D-O. The final chapters feel like everything is being tied into a neat little bow so that Ochi’s ship is waiting to be discovered, Lando is now living on Pasaana, etc. There isn’t really a timeline specific point for the book, much like all of the new novels, but we do know this book takes place before Bloodline. Given that the Rey flashback scenes take place here, and we’re told that she’s six years old, this places it thirteen years before The Force Awakens, or seventeen years after Return of the Jedi. So we can fix it in 21ABY, if we’re using the old calendar. In case you find it easier (like me!) to refer back to what happened during the Legends timeline, this book takes place after the Hand of Thrawn duology, but before Survivor’s Quest.

Anyway!

A lot of this book made me want to re-watch The Rise of Skywalker, I have to admit. The way it deftly sets things up so that a lot of the plot threads are woven into something more like a cohesive narrative is really quite nice. I really liked the addition of the Corporate Sector Authority, and the fact their soldiers are still called Espos made me smile. I like the fact that Lor San Tekka is given a little bit more of a role to play, although we still need something that deals with the Church of the Force, I feel! I would love there to be something that would pull together these sorts of spiritual elements, like the Guardians of the Whills and whatnot. But even while we get more blanks filled in with books like this, the post-Original Trilogy era still feels wide open and a mystery, which is more than a little annoying. I want more of the full galactic picture, you know? It feels like the focus is too narrow these days, and nobody wants to give us novels like the old Legends stuff that gave us an idea of what the galaxy was like. But I could go on about this all day.

I do also like the callbacks to those interludes from the Aftermath trilogy. While the books didn’t really inspire me, I think I most enjoyed seeing those interludes, as we did get more of that galactic scale from them. It’s where we first got to see the Acolytes of the Beyond (the acknowledgements actually refers to Kiza being Chuck Wendig’s character, I’d clearly forgotten the specifics there!) so I did like the fact that was drawn on. We get more on the role that Yupe Tashu played in the earlier trilogy, as well, which further helps to join things together. Star Wars has always striven to be one long narrative, and it’s something that really irritates me recently about the new canon stuff being all over the place, and almost existing in a vacuum. I think we had a tiny bit in Resistance Reborn, and now we’ve got this as well, so slowly things are beginning to cross-reference and give us that feel of it all being one big story.

Of course, there are still so many problems with the sequel trilogy, the book cannot remedy that. In fact, I was quite dismayed by the way Disney is handling the source material here, when Luke is fighting Kiza and says something along the lines of nobody is ever too far gone over to the Dark Side of the Force. I mean, what does Yoda say? “Forever will it dominate your destiny”? Is this the House of Mouse telling us that it’s all sunshine and rainbows after all? It’s just one line, sure, and I can kinda see Luke would maybe think that after redeeming his father, but as we’ve discussed already, he did that seventeen years prior to this novel. It’s not like he’s all that optimistic still, surely?

Definitely have to deduct a star for that slip up. 

But otherwise, this book is pretty much the sort of thing I want from Star Wars. We’re getting a good space adventure with Luke and Lando, we’ve got the Sith working in the shadows to their own ends, and we’ve got some serious effort to draw elements from earlier books together and join up those dots. As a bonus, we even get some Ben Solo being undervalued action – I’m not saying I can totally see why he’d turn out a wrong ‘un, but it does make it easy to see how Luke’s treatment of Ben would leave the padawan susceptible to Snoke’s manipulations. 

Possibly the best new Star Wars novel since Bloodline. I liked it a lot!

Merry Christmas!

Whether you’re celebrating Christmas or just enjoying a quiet Sunday, I hope you find folks are having a great day!

It’s true, I’m obsessed with Marvel Champions! I’d sort of opened Sinister Motives towards the end of last week, but I’ve got a lot of sleeving to do for all these new cards! My 18-month old was particularly taken with Red Skull, which I found hilarious (and promising for future gaming!)

I know I haven’t yet built up all the Necromunda stuff from last year’s haul yet, either, but after I’d gotten into the Ash Wastes, I knew I wanted the Squat gang as well. Hopefully 2023 will see much more Necromunda played than the solitary game of 2022 (though I guess we still have a week to right that wrong!) Stay tuned!!

I knew I wouldn’t actually finish this book in one night, but I’ve barely started in the end! I’ve been gifted this flu that seems to be doing the rounds, so have had a couple of rubbish nights now. Fingers crossed this passes quickly, anyway!

Whatever you’re up to today, I hope that it’s fabulous!!

Hawkeye

Hey everybody,
It’s Christmas Eve, so I thought I’d share my rambling thoughts on Hawkeye, the Disney+ miniseries that attempts to get Clint Barton home in time for Christmas, while confronting the ghosts of his past as the Ronin.

We mainly follow Kate Bishop, who as a young girl was rescued during the Chitauri attack on New York by Barton, and has ever since aspired to be like him. While Kate and her mother Eleanor attend a charity auction gala, Kate discovers a secret auction in the basement where items recovered from the Avengers Compound are offered for sale. The auction is interrupted by the Tracksuit Mafia, who make off with a watch; Kate manages to defeat the mafia while wearing the Ronin suit, though later on they catch up with her. After seeing a news report of the Ronin’s return, Barton rescues Kate but her apartment catches on fire, so they have to abandon the suit.

The return of the Ronin has prompted the Tracksuit Mafia to hunt for Barton at the instigation of their boss, Maya Lopez. Barton uncovers links to Eleanor Bishop’s fiancé and the Mafia, and discovers that Lopez is after the Ronin because he killed her father. Barton attempts to recover the watch from Lopez but is apprehended by a masked assailant who is revealed to be Yelena Belova. Yelena later catches up with Kate and explains her mission to kill Barton. She further reveals that she has been hired by Eleanor, who is working with Lopez’ “uncle”, who is revealed to be the Kingpin.

As events come to a head, Barton is able to convince Yelena that he and Natasha were friends, and she sacrificed herself for the whole universe. Eleanor is arrested, and Kate is able to incapacitate Kingpin using trick arrows, though he is able to escape. Lopez confronts him after learning he engineered her father’s murder, and a gunshot is heard. Meanwhile, Barton brings Kate along as he is reunited with his family for Christmas.

I’ve missed a great deal of the twists and turns of plot out here, because this is quite a hefty storyline, but it’s also really great – in fact, I would hesitate to say it is one of the best Disney+ Marvel shows I’ve seen so far! I’m not particularly a Hawkeye fan, but I do believe he was always somewhat relegated to a side role in the Avengers movies, which is a shame when you consider the fact he used to actually lead the West Coast Avengers back in the day. It was nice to see him in his own show where, while he’s not necessarily front and centre all the time, he passes on the mantle to Kate Bishop. I know a lot of the internet doesn’t seem to like the show because of her, but a lot of the internet seems to hate on Marvel shows simply because they include significant female roles. Which is just stupid.

There are so many tie-ins to the Defenders in this show, I think that’s a major part of why I enjoyed this one so much. The big one, of course, is Kingpin, played by Vincent d’Onofrio, who created the role in the Netflix Daredevil series. I am a very big Daredevil fan, so was a big fan of this. Maya Lopez is Echo, a fairly complex superhero who is slated to get her own Disney+ series in 2023, which I am very excited about! I’ve read there are hints that Laura Barton, who owns the watch that was a catalyst for so much of the action throughout the series, as well as suddenly steps up almost as a partner to her husband’s superhero persona at times, might actually be the SHIELD agent Mockingbird, which could be really quite something if that is used in the future. 

Overall, it’s a very different type of Marvel show, with a lot of the New York high society glitz undercut with the organised crime underbelly of the city. I really enjoyed it, perhaps in part because I didn’t expect very much from it. Like I said, I wouldn’t call myself a Hawkeye fan, but the show turned out so well that I was really impressed!

Spider-Man: Far From Home

Hey everybody,
It was my birthday last weekend, and I sat down to watch the middle Spider-Man film, Far From Home, which I’d picked up a while ago. I’m not a huge Spider-Man fan, it has to be said, but I’m sure it was about twelve months ago that we watched the last one, and we’ve recently been watching a bunch of Marvel stuff, so I was somewhat in the mood for it.

The film picks up after Endgame, and does deal with some more of the fallout from The Snap in interesting ways – like, part of Peter’s class disappeared while the other part aged five years, and so on. It’s interesting to see how the writers give us these little bits and pieces, though the tone is much lighter than, say, Falcon & Winter Soldier, where there are more serious issues raised with the repatriation council, etc. At the end of term, Peter and his class are going to Europe so arrive in Venice, where coincidentally there is a huge elemental incursion by some kind of water-being. A masked, caped superhero flies in to dissipate the elemental, and is revealed to be working with Nick Fury and what is left of SHIELD. He later tells Peter that his name is Quentin Beck, and he has been chasing down these elementals across the world. After the Italian press dub him “l’uomo del misterio”, he adopts the name Mysterio and explains that there are elemental creatures that have rampaged through his universe, so he has come to Earth-616 to pursue them.

The next elemental attack is predicted for Prague, but Peter’s class is initially headed for Paris. Fury manages to reroute them to the Czech Republic, so that Peter can help Mysterio to deal with the attack. Along the way, Peter is given a pair of glasses bequeathed to him by Tony Stark, with the EDITH AI system in them. Peter doesn’t feel worthy of the gift, however, so gives them to Mysterio, whereupon we learn that he is none other than a fraud, a disaffected Stark Industries employee who is working with other former colleagues to gain some recognition by using illusion tech to make himself appear to be a superhero.

When MJ inadvertently recovers part of the illusion projector in Prague, Peter begins to see what has happened. Mysterio’s next target is London, where Peter’s class is due to end their trip, and a confrontation happens over Tower Bridge that sees Peter eventually able to overpower Mysterio. However, Mysterio publishes a doctored video that makes it look like Spider-Man is responsible for the attack, and reveals to the world that the superhero is none other than Peter Parker.

It’s a good film, nothing too strenuous to watch, although it did amuse me thinking how the elemental attacks are meant to be video projections, and yet the illusion in Venice is able to physically destroy buildings along the way. I had read that Jake Gyllenhaal wanted to portray Mysterio as sincere as possible to begin with, which clearly worked because I was almost distraught when he turned out to be the baddie!

The movie plays around a lot with fake news and the like, with Mysterio’s illusions and his denouncement of Peter at the end. In the end-credits scene we also learn that Nick Fury has been on vacation in space, and it was a pair of Skrulls masquerading as Fury and Maria Hill. What’s going on there? I have no idea, though apparently it’s something that we’re still waiting to resolve. It’s becoming a bit convoluted at this point, all this stuff, I have to say! I liked the first raft of movies, where clearly Fury was recruiting to assemble the Avengers, but now it seems to be a lot more veiled. I like a bit of mystery, don’t get me wrong, but when you think this film came out in 2019, and it’s currently expected to pay off in Secret Wars next year, that’s quite a wait. 

At any rate, I thought the movie was fine, and a good backdrop to painting miniatures!

As you may well know, though, I’ve become slightly obsessed with Marvel Champions LCG this year, and after a couple of weeks off in the autumn, I’ve been back into playing and collecting. I’d picked up the Sinister Motives campaign expansion for myself as well, and had thought I would keep it for Christmas but after watching the movie I decided to allow myself an early Christmas present and played the Mysterio scenario earlier this week.

It was actually really good, as well. I’ve read some fairly neutral reviews of this one in particular, but I enjoyed how it plays around with the whole illusion thing, adding in encounter cards to the player deck, which then get dealt to you as additional encounter cards. I was trying out Spectrum and Doctor Strange, another recent acquisition, and while they were doing some good work between them it was by no means a pushover scenario.

I thought the mechanic of adding cards into the player deck is interesting, and oddly enough have just finished up the Dream-Eaters campaign for Arkham Horror that uses a similar idea as well. Whereas previous games like Marvel Legendary have added in cards like this, which would annoyingly need to be re-sleeved to play, here it doesn’t matter – indeed, the campaign guide does state that you should plan for drawing these encounter cards, which can be especially important when you could potentially end up with 3-4 encounter cards in front of you!

It was a good game, and I was just about able to scrape a win, with the death blow dealt while both heroes were at 2 health remaining. It’s definitely good to invigorate the villains pool with more options, I have to say – I’m looking forward to getting a few more when the jolly fella comes down the chimney on Sunday and brings another box!

The Dream-Eaters: final stage

Well folks, I made it! After deciding it would be a good idea to try to finish up the campaign before Christmas, I was able to finish both final stages last night, and bring the campaign to a close almost as quickly as when I was playing stuff like Dunwich and Carcosa a couple of years ago. Lately, it seems, I have been playing Arkham Horror LCG campaigns much more spaced-out, so it was good to get that level of focus on this and see it through, so to speak! I realise, of course, that this makes it sound like a chore that I had to get through, but that isn’t really the case at all.

While these sorts of blogs normally come with a spoiler warning, beware that this one in particular does talk about some of the twists and turns!!

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Where the Gods Dwell is the finale to the dream quest, and saw Minh and Agnes arrive at the Plateau of Leng. Our first task was to investigate the Monastery of Leng, and see if we could defeat The High Priest Not To Be Described, before moving on to the Onyx Castle where all will be revealed! This scenario once again had that element of staging the locations, so we are first out on the Plateau but then move into the Castle, whereupon the map changes.

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Throughout the campaign, we have had some Hidden cards involved, usually treachery cards that go into our hand and take up valuable space, preventing us from acting entirely freely unless we are able to discard these cards. Where the Gods Dwell takes this much further, and we have one per investigator plus one copies of Nyarlathotep shuffled into the encounter deck, each card unique, and each with the Hidden keyword. We cannot speak his name, else we are driven insane, but also we cannot take any action against him unless we have gained another Hidden card, one of four copies of Whispering Chaos. These cards allow us to trigger the action on one of the location cards in place, which is a skill test of some sort that, if passed, will allow us to add the copy of Nyarlathotep from our hand to the victory display. It is quite convoluted, which I suppose is entirely on theme (I especially liked one such action where you had to take an evade test, using your investigate attribute, further adding to the chaos of the ancient one!) With only having three copies of the ancient one in the deck, it became a bit complicated to ensure the investigator with Nyarlathotep also gets the Whispering Chaos card to allow them to defeat him.

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By doing so, I was able to claim victory – there is a fifth Act card where all the copies of Nyarlathotep merge into one mega-boss that needs to be banished forever, but fortunately I had made earlier story choices that meant I could finish the game sooner. My investigators suffered two mental trauma, and then had a choice to make – wake up, or go after the other investigators in the second campaign. I decided on the latter, which brings us to the final pack in the waking world.

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Weaver of the Cosmos is, unsurprisingly, a showdown with Atlach-Nacha. The spiders in the hospital, the ichor seeping through into the waking world, it’s all down to this ancient one, and he is determined to finish weaving his great web between the waking world and the Dreamlands, which would result in utter chaos. We’re basically trying to cross his huge web, whereupon Randolph Carter turns on us and traps us in the spider’s lair. Didn’t see that one coming! We then have a showdown with the ancient one, which is a little bit goofy as you “assemble” the ancient one out of a central double-sided enemy card and four “leg” enemies.

Clark Ashton Smith’s The Seven Geases, which introduces Atlach-Nacha to the mythos, is a bit of a spoof/satire, and a part of me wondered if the scenario is trying to reflect that, as I certainly found it a bit silly at times. See, we have the four “leg” enemies arranged around the “body” card, then there are eight Web location cards arranged in a circle around this fabulous construct. At the start of the mythos phase, you draw a chaos token and, if it is a negative modifier, Atlach-Nacha rotates a number of locations clockwise, meaning it looks faintly ridiculous as time goes on. Furthermore, you can spend a clue to deal 3 damage to a leg enemy, which has a health of 3 hit points per investigator. So a total of eight clues are required to defeat the legs, but with locations only having 2 shroud, for the most part, this was very straightforward. The only difficulty is trying to keep up with the rotating legs, but that’s hardly insurmountable.

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Once they’ve all gone, Atlach-Nacha himself then becomes the final boss, but with only 4 hit points per investigator, and a fight value of 4, I didn’t find this too troublesome either. I suppose Jenny being fairly tooled-up helped, but even Carolyn being weapons-averse was able to soften it up. 

With Atlach-Nacha gone, the investigators are trapped in this nightmare realm forever, but there is the Epilogue. I was quite surprised at how slick this finale worked, if I’m honest, as there were so many branching paths that could have happened during the course of both campaigns, it was quite impressive that the designers were able to dovetail things quite well. In the end, both groups of investigators were united in the Dreamlands, and I won – but everybody is trapped there, and I did feel a bit let-down that there isn’t closure for my dreaming investigators, who are presumably now in a permanent coma situation in the hospital? This hasn’t been addressed, leading to a bit of an uneasy feeling – but I guess that’s probably the point?

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Overall, I did enjoy this campaign. I think it started well, but as time went on, it did seem to get a bit ploddy, somehow. Like, I enjoyed the Arkham locations in the waking world, and the Dreamlands did feel like a magical place etc, but as we got towards the end it felt like I just had to get through. I noticed this especially in stage three, where I was almost rushing it and ignoring a lot of the stuff that was going on around me as I was aiming for the finish line. It became a lot more mechanical, rather than providing the escapism I usually enjoy from the game. 

There weren’t too many “gotcha” moments as we went through, though, and I actually found myself chuckling quietly as earlier campaign decisions came to fruition in unexpected ways. For instance, the evidence of Kadath tally that I had become a little wary of actually helped me, as it meant I was able to get into the Onyx Castle straightaway. I was a bit surprised that Randolph Carter turned on both groups of investigators, turning out to be an aspect of Nyarlathotep in each campaign, but it wasn’t a big turn-off for me. 

Playing two interwoven mini-campaigns was an interesting experience, for sure, and despite the mixed reviews it seems to have online, I am glad to have done it this way. The fact that we have an interlude after each stage means that they are connected, and it is quite good to see how the stories weave in and out of each other, though it wasn’t immediately apparent to me how much the choices in one impact on the other. Occasionally, there are moments where we’re told a certain choice will make things more difficult for the other side, but I don’t think making those choices was noticeable (unless I just expect the game to be this difficult!)

I think I might well try this again, playing just one side to see how it all works. Having four investigators on the go did prove to be a bit of a faff in the end. I think I was perhaps underwhelmed with how each was really performing, certainly the waking investigators didn’t really seem to have a lot to do. While I admit that’s down to my investigator picks for each side, I think I did feel a bit disappointed with Carolyn in particular, and this seemed to bleed into the rest of them so that, by the mid-point of the campaign, I gave up spending the experience on upgrading cards, and so probably have about 15 experience for each side of the campaign that was unspent by the end. Whether this is related to the point many folks online mention around not having enough time with the investigators, I don’t know, but I certainly didn’t feel as enthused about upgrading my decks as I normally am!

The way I enjoyed the Arkham scenarios at the beginning did get me thinking, though, just how much I miss the town within this game. It strikes me that the links back to New England are becoming increasingly tenuous as new campaigns come out, with Edge of the Earth not having any gameplay in the setting at all. I miss it, and I think the high watermark for this is probably The Circle Undone, which primarily feels like an Arkham setting. I have no idea what to expect after The Scarlet Keys takes us across the whole globe, but I do find myself wondering if we could have something that allows us to play Arkham Horror actually in Arkham.

At any rate, with the completion of this campaign, I have now played all of the Arkham Horror campaigns that I own! I suppose there is a bit of a question mark over Innsmouth, as I kinda mis-played that one and so “lost” when both my investigators went insane, so I will likely play that again soon. I still haven’t picked up The Scarlet Keys, mostly because I’ve been investing heavily in Marvel Champions, but I think I’ll get that in the new year when I’ve made it through Innsmouth and have nothing else new to play. Early reviews seem to indicate it’s a very good addition, so that’s encouraging at least!

Loki

The six-episode Loki series picks up the trickster god’s story when he escapes from New York with the tesseract, following the Avengers time travelling during the events of Endgame. He drops into the middle of a desert landscape, and is apprehended by officers of the Time Variance Authority (TVA), who arrest him for “crimes against the sacred timeline”.

Loki escapes punishment by agreeing to help the TVA to hunt a particular Loki Variant that is playing havoc with the timeline, and he realises that the Variant is jumping around the timeline, hiding from the TVA at so-called nexus events, apocalypses and the like which mask the Variant’s actions. Travelling to a hurricane in 2050 Alabama, Loki discovers a female version of himself, who goes by Sylvie, who has set timeline-reset charges at numerous points to distract the TVA, whereupon she sneaks into their headquarters followed by Loki. The two manage to escape from the authorities by jumping to 2077 and the imminent of the moon Lamentis-1, however the fact that Loki and Sylvie begin to form a bond creates an alert that brings the TVA in once more.

Loki and Sylvie begin to expose the truth of the TVA, that all of the workers there are themselves variants of people from Earth. Loki and Sylvie are brought before the Time Keepers, the ultimate authority in the TVA, but Sylvie reveals them to be nothing but androids. Loki is sent to the Void at the end of time, where Sylvie deduces the real mastermind behind the Time Keepers is hiding. Sylvie manages to send herself there, and teams up once more with Loki and a number of other Loki variants, who enable the pair to find the way to the Citadel at the End of Time. There, Loki and Sylvie meet with He Who Remains, who explains that he ended a multiverse war by using the creature Alioth to consume all other timelines and variances of himself, and created the TVA to ensure the timeline did not branch any further.

He Who Remains offers the pair a choice – kill him, and unleash another multiverse war, or replace him as the true head of the TVA. Sylvie sends Loki back to the TVA and kills He Who Remains, which unleashes the multiverse, with too many timelines for the TVA to cope with. Loki tries to warn the TVA but they do not recognise him, and it is revealed that one of He Who Remains’ variants is in control of the TVA.


This is one hell of a series, and I have to admit, I didn’t really “get it” until I had finished watching it all, and could sit back and see what exactly I had been watching, and what was going on. I suppose it helps to know that He Who Remains is Kang the Conqueror, or at least a variant of him is Kang the Conqueror. I’ve since read he is also meant to be based on Immortus, which makes some sense – the Avengers villain who keeps all timelines in check. Comic book time travel and the like is never easy to follow, of course, but Immortus is meant to be the future version of a number of different cosmic evildoers, and Kang the Conqueror is one such entity. Kang the Conqueror is a classic Avengers/Fantastic Four villain, with a long history that goes right back to the early 1960s in terms of comic publication. 

In terms of the MCU, Kang is set to be in the upcoming third Ant-Man film, as well as the fifth Avengers movie, which seems to be his big moment as that film is subtitled The Kang Dynasty. Given how long and convoluted the character’s history is, I think it’ll be interesting to see how the MCU handles him as a super-villain.

Sylvie is an interesting addition to the roster, being I think partly based on elements of The Enchantress, a classic Thor villain. Indeed, that’s who I thought she was meant to be at first, but I guess this is an example of the MCU being based off the comics, and not merely producing them as straight-up adaptations. 

I thought the series was interesting for the fact that it serves as a further stepping stone in the overall multiverse saga that is currently going on, and introduces us to the big villain (although we perhaps didn’t realise this at the time). If you were expecting an exploration of Loki in terms of his Asgardian heritage, and looking at things from that perspective, then it’s going to be a disappointment. I know the intention with the show was to allow Loki to grow without the shadow of Thor being around, but it feels quite odd to divorce Loki from all of that. While the elements of the Time Keepers and stuff is perhaps appropriate for what Loki is all about, I think the fact the TVA is depicted as a sort of 1970s “modern” office building, all beige and tan and the like, it seems to detract from Loki as a god of mischief. I suppose that was part of the pun at first, maybe, but I can’t help feeling like there was a missed opportunity with the character, despite the fact I recognise that the timeline stuff and He Who Remains is all necessary to the overall plot of the current multiverse saga. Does that make sense?

There is a season two of Loki in the works, although it seems very much like that second series will be TVA-centric, given the returning cast. I believe it’s due for release in the middle of 2023, so I suppose now that we’re firmly with the idea of the multiverse, and building towards Kang as the villain, it could begin to dig deeper into what we can find out for that? I guess we’ll see…

The Dream-Eaters: stage three

In a bid to try to get the Dream-Eaters campaign finished before Christmas, today I breezed through both scenarios in stage three, which is probably not the best way to go but I was also on childcare duty, so didn’t have a great deal of spare time. I would have been back to this game sooner, but after getting a slew of Marvel Champions things for my birthday at the weekend, I have been once more obsessing with that game. I need more focus!!

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The Dark Side of the Moon is a bit like a dungeon-crawl scenario, where we start with a small board and by paying clues at a certain location, we can see just a few more locations further ahead. We are up on the moon, so of course we’re battling moon-beasts while exploring the caverns and suchlike up there. I’ve said it before, but it’s remarkable how the designers have been able to take Lovecraft’s Dream-Quest novella and turn it into this campaign. I’ve been really impressed so far with the Dream side of things, for sure.

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I enjoyed seeing more of the board on a stage-by-state basis, although there is a part of me that is fondly nostalgic for the more basic scenarios from earlier campaigns, where the map is just laid in front of you, and you get to explore it without trying to work out where the next pieces of the puzzle have to go. I can’t quite help but feel like this is a bit gimmicky now, though, and rather than just have everything out from the start, they’re trying to come up with new ways of staggering the laying-out of locations.

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At any rate, once we explore the caverns and stuff, we make it to The White Ship and sail away, another one of Lovecraft’s dream stories ticked off as being incorporated into the storyline. There is a mechanic in this one which uses doom tokens to represent the ‘alert’ level, which seems to be linked with drawing attention to ourselves. I was a bit unsure on this, as surely if we the investigators are on high-alert, we’re being super stealthy? But no, bad things can happen the more alert we are, it seems!

I did treat this one very much like a rush job, it has to be said, and evaded monsters rather than trying to fight them.

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In the waking world, we are now at the Point of No Return. We arrived in the Underworld of the Dreamlands last time, but rather than immediately set off after our friends, Randolph Carter thinks we have the opportunity here to discover what is making the barrier between the worlds weaken, so we’re off on a bit of a side-quest, it feels. Now, there’s nothing inherently wrong with this scenario, but it did very much feel like a rehash of Search for Kadath earlier in the campaign, as each location has a story side, and it’s only by exploring these locations that we can advance the Act.

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Rather than there being four distinct other worlds to choose from, there are just two further stages – Vale of Pnath locations, and then the Sea of Pitch. Each area has four locations, and one of them will allow you to advance the act. It’s a bit samey, but I decided I wanted to think of it in terms of the internal rhyme or parallel between the dreaming and the waking worlds. Or something.

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Something that I liked about the setup for this scenario was how different encounter sets would get shuffled into the deck as things progress. The pack actually features two additional small encounter sets, which help to stagger the reveals. One of them features the Dhole, a classic mythos monster that we finally get in the card game! I think we’ve had this before, where a mythos pack would come with more than just a single encounter set, but it remains to be seen if they’re used in any of the final scenarios.

The Dream-Eaters III

As you can see above, the sun started to shine as my victory became apparent, although I’m not entirely sure if I can really say that I’m winning – in the next Interlude, the black cat has brought my investigators news of Nyarlathotep, which cannot be cause for celebration! I’m a bit bemused, though, because I had thought this cycle was going to be all about Atlach-Nacha, and indeed, we have encounter sets for his agents, plus there are spiders and webs everywhere, so I’m not really sure what’s going on! But I’ve got a hefty chunk of experience points to spend on the final deck upgrades, so hopefully I can get myself organised and find the time for the last two scenarios before the weekend.

Stay tuned!!

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness

Back in the summer, my wife and I started to watch our way through the Phase Four stuff of the MCU, but we didn’t get too far before deciding to re-watch everything from the beginning, in timeline order this time. However, after Captain America and both seasons of Agent Carter, I think we burnt out a little, and started watching other stuff. At any rate, now that Phase Four has come to an end with the second Black Panther movie, which we saw on a recent date night and thought was really great, we’re once more trying to watch the stuff from Phase Four that we haven’t yet seen.

For those of you who might be wondering what I’m on about, Marvel’s Phase Four kicks off the three-part Multiverse Saga, much like the first three phases were all about Thanos and the Infinity Stones. It’s not super clear yet who the big bad of this phase is going to be, as the stories have been a bit all over the place, with a lot of criticism of the way the TV shows on Disney+ has been spewing out. That said, of course, it now appears that the main villain of the piece is going to be Kang, but for now we’ve had quite a lot of content that has served more as a postlude to the Infinity Saga than anything else.

Doctor Strange 2 is one of seven movies in this phase, and seems to work a lot off the WandaVision TV series. The multiverse idea is first introduced in Loki, and I believe the third Spider-Man film, No Way Home, further expands on this, though I haven’t yet seen that movie to comment. I have a lot of catching up to do!

Following a dream in which Strange and a mysterious girl are being pursued by a demon, Strange ends up rescuing the same girl from another demon in New York. Introducing herself as America Chavez, she explains that she has the power to travel the multiverse, and the demons want that power from her. Strange recognises the runes on the demon as witchcraft, and visits Wanda Maximoff for help but realises that she has sent the demons after Chavez. Since she gained the Darkhold grimoire, and became the Scarlet Witch, Wanda has learnt of the multiverse and has discovered a universe where she lives with her two boys for real.

Wanda attacks Kamar-Taj to get to Chavez, but Chavez manages to flee with Strange to an alternative version of Earth (Earth-838). Wanda uses the Darkhold to “dreamwalk”, taking possession of the version of herself from that universe, to continue her pursuit of Chavez. However, one of the sorcerers from Kamar-Taj destroys the Darkhold, breaking the spell, so Wanda forces Wong, the Sorcerer Supreme, to take her to Mount Wundagore, the original source of the Darkhold’s power, where she can continue her dreamwalk.

Strange and Chavez are apprehended on Earth-838 by Karl Mordo, who in this universe is the Sorcerer Supreme, and who takes them before the Illuminati, a group dedicated to preventing multiverse incursions. The group consists of Peggy Carter, Black Bolt, Mr Fantastic, Maria Rambeau, and Professor X. The Illuminati initially distrust Strange, as their universe’s Strange had used the Darkhold to defeat Thanos, but was executed for taking his power too far. Before they can pass judgment, Wanda arrives, and is able to defeat the Illuminati while Strange and Chavez escape, with the help of Dr Palmer who in this universe is working with the Illuminati to study multiverse incursions. The three attempt to find the Book of Vishanti, which can nullify the power of the Darkhold, and Strange finds himself in his dream from the start of the movie – however, Wanda follows them and destroys the book, taking over Chavez’ mind and sending Strange and Palmer to another universe.

Strange finds his counterpart, who has been corrupted by the power of the Darkhold, but is able to defeat his alter-ego. He then uses the power of this universe’s Darkhold to dreamwalk into the corpse of the Dr Strange Chavez originally arrived with in Earth-616, where he is able to confront Wanda on Mount Wundagore. Corpse-Strange tells Chavez she needs to trust herself, so Chavez opens a portal to Earth-838, where Wanda’s children recoil in horror from their “mother”, prompting Wanda to realise the error of her ways. She uses her power to destroy all copies of the Darkhold across the multiverse, and bring down Mount Wundagore – apparently giving her own life to do so, and Chavez restores Strange and Palmer to their respective versions of Earth.

Due to his dreamwalk into a corpse, Strange develops a third eye in his forehead, and in the mid-credits scene he is accosted by Clea, a sorceress who demands his help to fix an incursion he has caused. Together, they head off into the Dark Dimension.


There is a hell of a lot going on in this movie, but by keeping such a tight focus on essentially just two characters, Wanda and Strange, it is able to fit in all of this without feeling like it is cluttered or too busy. Which is such a good thing when you consider that the movie is dealing with something as potentially confusing as the multiverse. Indeed, the story manages to get across its idea of there being multiple universes really quite well, although I have heard that some of the criticism of this is the fact that every version of a person from across the multiverse has the same background, which is a bone of contention for some. I’m not a big Doctor Strange fan in terms of the original comics, and I’m not hugely familiar with the multiverse in the source material, so it didn’t bother me – indeed, it actually made things easier to follow.

There is a distinct horror feel to the film, which is possibly down to director Sam Raimi, but it is interesting to see Wanda become a villain in this story. Now, I loved WandaVision, and rewatching it over the summer, that was really reinforced. During the course of the series, Wanda realises the havoc that she has caused by taking over peoples’ lives in order to make herself happy, and many critics have mentioned how the story arc essentially repeats itself here. I think I would argue that actually, the book explains the corrupting power of the Darkhold, and it becomes easy to see how Wanda, who is grieving for the loss of Vision, plus the loss of the life she had made for herself, who is likely fixated on the idea of a normal family life, then having this dark magical artefact whispering to her that she can get back to that life. I can see how she would fall once again into that role – it’s not quite a villain, although she’s clearly an antagonist for the story. I suppose my one criticism here is that there is no time for any kind of resolution for her in the same way that we saw in the show. Wanda realises what she was doing was wrong, so makes it right by sacrificing herself, and then it’s done. I hope we haven’t seen the last of her, so I had hoped that perhaps there would have been more to round her story out. 

The Illuminati was a huge highlight for me, which made it all the more awful when they were just dispensed with in short order. Peggy Carter as Captain Britain probably gave the best outing, so it’s great to see Marvel still use her even if it is only in bit-parts like this. I don’t think Jemma really appreciated how huge my reaction was (I nearly dropped my cuppa!) when we had not only John Krasinski’s Mr Fantastic appear, but then Patrick Stewart reprising his role as Professor X! No matter how bad those films got, I still love Bryan Singer’s X-Men films, and it gives me nothing but joy to see this happen in the MCU. Whether we’ll ever get the X-Men, and whether they will ever live up to the “originals” if they recast, who can say. But the fact that we have now had a glimpse of them is just wonderful. It just makes me sad that the Illuminati only had like 10-15 minutes of screen time, most of which was them dying off.

The original Illuminati included the likes of Mr Fantastic, Black Panther, Namor, and Iron Man (as well as Strange himself), so whether their presence here could herald a new group that might come about when the Fantastic Four have been more formally introduced, who knows. The fact that Namor has now entered the MCU is a good sign, though, and hopefully we’re headed more for the sort of cosmic stuff with Fantastic Four that we could get a really interesting team here.

At any rate, the film was pretty good, and seems to set up a lot for the future, as well as tying up a lot, making it a firm centrepiece film for the MCU. I like that, it really feels like we could get more of these ensemble movies in the future, along the lines of Civil War being ostensibly a Captain America film, but actually there’s a lot more to it than that. With no Doctor Strange 3 on the roster so far, it does make me wonder what the mid-credits scene with Clea is all about. Surely you don’t get Charlize Theron starring as Doctor Strange’s eventual wife, talking about incursions and the Dark Dimension, without a plan for a follow-up! I’m not that familiar with the comics, as I mentioned, but Baron Mordo seems to have been desperately under-used, so maybe we’ll get a third film that gives a star-studded, mind-blowing pay-off for all of that?

Fingers crossed…

Veil of Twilight

I tried to save the world from Yog-Sothoth, but I don’t think it went as planned…

Arkham Horror

I’ve been enjoying the Arkham universe once again lately, getting halfway through the Dream-Eaters campaign for the Arkham Horror LCG in fairly short order. I’ve not played the board game for a while, though, so decided to take the opportunity to try my hand at the third scenario from the core set, Veil of Twilight. This was a very interesting game, because I’m definitely starting to see how this game is less about picking an Ancient One to fight, and more about the unfolding narrative of the scenario, which may or may not culminate with a boss battle.

Very much as the rulebook says, we don’t really know what we’re trying to do at the start of the game. There are some bits and pieces, but we’re really trying to figure things out as we go. In this scenario, there are “scars” in the fabric of reality that, it seems, need to be mended. But you need to keep doom in check, of course, and there are lots of monsters in this one that interact with doom which, during the course of my game, meant I had something of a nexus of evil up at the top of the board!

Arkham Horror

I decided to use Agnes Baker and Minh Thi Phan as my investigators, as I am currently playing with them in the card game, so that was quite good. However, I hadn’t reckoned on their stats, so was left with two fairly fragile investigators going up against the denizens of hell. However, Minh constantly surprised me and was able to actually clear out that nexus of evil, while Agnes pretty much kept the rest of the board in check.

Arkham Horror

Partway through the scenario, more of these scars turn up on the board, and you need to spend clues from the scenario sheet to seal them up. Agnes became a powerhouse here, getting the clues and whacking them onto the sheet – I think Minh sealed two scars up, but it was mostly Agnes laying all of the groundwork. How surprising, then, when the time came, that I discovered that actually, I have paved the way for “the real work of the Silver Twilight Lodge” to begin! Minh had actually joined the secret fraternity, so I suppose technically she won, but jeez, I wasn’t expecting that!

Arkham Horror

It was a great game though, as I struggled to recall all of the rules. I was a bit distracted by my wife watching the new Cormoran Strike series in the next room, so probably took longer than normal to get going with it all, but impressively, the whole game only took about 2 hours – including set up and clean up. That’s a definite improvement on the 40 minutes of set up when I cracked open the box recently, I have to say!

The involvement of the Silver Twilight Lodge is very reminiscent of The Circle Undone, of course, and I seem to recall that I had the same result when I initially played that cycle, “winning” and allowing the Lodge to begin their “true work”. When will I learn that making a deal with the devil is not the best course of action?!

Arkham Horror

Still, it was a good game. There’s only one more scenario left from the core set now, and then I have the small expansion, Dead of Night, so I think it might be fun to crack open that box soon, and see what else is in store for me! I’m pretty sure it’s a “more of the same” situation, I think there are new investigators and two new scenarios? So that should keep me going for a while, though I am increasingly tempted by the other expansions, especially as (a) there are only two of them, and (b) the sky-is-falling attitude of the game potentially being dead meaning that supply might not always be there. It’s a great game, after all, and I think this year has shown that it is one that I keep coming back to, so don’t be surprised if I end up with more news on that before long!