April 2023 retrospective

Hey everybody,
April is already over, and so it’s time once more to take a look back at the month and see what has been going on in my little corner of the internet. At least it seems to have been a bit more exciting than the month of March, which was a bit of a washout thanks to all the germs that were doing the rounds – although I was tragically struck down with some kind of bug over Easter, which then seemed to turn into some kind of sinus infection. We’re hopefully out of the woods now, of course, but I think overall the month has been pretty good! 

My gaming had taken a little dip at one point, I think due to generally not feeling that great, but I’ve begun to get some classics to the table once again, including A Touch of Evil and Runebound!


I love playing this game. One of the best things about it, for me, is how it allows you to kinda role-play the game without the need for any kind of in-built timer forcing you to keep an eye on the clock. There are a couple of timing mechanisms, of course, but generally speaking you can just go around the board, playing the game, and enjoying the theme, without the need to worry about getting from x to y in a certain time, or whatever. I do understand, though, that some people tend not to like those sorts of meandering games, and along with the mystery card, The Hour is Late, the first web villain for the game, the Delion Dryad, brought a couple more ways to ensure the game is kept moving along at a pace.

I haven’t played with the Dryad for a very long time, indeed my boardgamegeek stats tell me it’s almost ten years since I played against her. While that isn’t perhaps a surprise, as the game in general went unplayed for so long until I got it back to the table last autumn, I am nevertheless eternally surprised at how long ago some of these games were last played.

The Dryad is an interesting villain, and you can read more about that here. I had expanded the game quite a bit, all told, also using stuff from Hero Pack One and the Allies supplement. The Allies is one of those web exclusive card packs where you have to pretty much pay a premium to get if you live outside of the US; I think when I last looked at this, I was paying around £40 to get a dozen cards and the rest was shipping. But A Touch of Evil is one of my all-time favourite games, so I didn’t really mind it at the time, of course! I think these days I am a bit more circumspect, of course – there are new card supplements that I want to get, but again, shelling out £40+ for a dozen cards, or whatever it is, isn’t really top of my priority list!

The game, though, was a lot of fun, and I enjoyed playing it a lot. The Scarlet Shadow hero (from Hero Pack One) has the very interesting effect of having to take a Cunning test if he ends up in town, or else he loses investigation (the currency of the game). It’s all very thematic, of course, with him being a highwayman, and it led to some very interesting game decisions because he couldn’t always cross the town safely.

In the final showdown, most of the elders turned out to be evil and I was lucky to get both Lord and Lady Hanbrook on my side. Sophie had actually joined the villain, though, and made things a bit more difficult, but I was able to prevail thanks to some lucky dice rolls and a couple of flammable torches, which I suppose I used to set the Dryad on fire. That’ll learn her…


I have also had a game of Runebound this month, using a couple of the small card expansions as well. I have actually talked about this game on the blog, but I just want to reiterate how much fun it can be when you play a magic user and are able to tool them up for magical combat. It’s also wonderfully thematic to play a game called Runebound and use magical runes when you’re playing!

I have noticed that I have procrastinated a lot over playing bigger board games like these of late. Given the choice, I’d much prefer to go for one of the living card games (heh, I’d much prefer to go for Marvel Champions, let’s be honest). It’s a bit daft, as well, because I think there is an expectation that a big board game is going to take a long time to play, plus set-up and clear-up time, whereas my game with A Touch of Evil didn’t really take that long at all. I suppose there’s also the fact that I used to take ages playing these games, because I had the time and the inclination, whereas nowadays it’s a case of just trying to find the time to fit in a quick scamper around Terrinoth, or whatever!

I’ve talked about this before, I think, as well, but the other thing at play here seems to be a slight unwillingness to deviate from my 10×10 list, as I feel like I have to play something from that list of games back in January for it to “count”. It’s funny really, because this is precisely the situation I wanted to avoid, but I’ve ended up in a place where I only want to play a game so that I can get that closer to my goal, and not because I’m in the mood for playing a game, if that makes sense?

I think I need to have a word with myself! 

Lord of the Rings

At any rate, I’ve been able to tally up a few more games for the 10×10 challenge, and have in fact reached my second goal on that list, with Lord of the Rings LCG now seeing ten games from me this year. After recently having been playing the Ringmaker quests, a cycle that broke me back in the day, I have found myself a little more tentative with coming back to this game, however I have now made it, so will probably continue with my various cycle play-throughs but at a more relaxed pace. Overall, though, I’ve played 41 games since the start of the year – so I’m ahead of schedule if you think that we’re only a third of the way through the year, but I’ve played more than a third of the games on the plan!

Marvel Champions continues to see play as well, even though I had reached my goal of ten games for that back in February. Indeed, my current tally for the game is 28 plays this year, which I find quite funny. It’s such a good game though, and with it being quite new to me still, I’m finding that it’s difficult to grow tired of it just yet. Marvel Champions was the game I played to mark my blog’s ninth birthday the other week, using the Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch decks. There’s always so much to enjoy about this game, I am forever impressed with how it plays.

To help increase that excitement, we finally had the announcement this month of the next campaign box, NeXt Evolution, which will bring X-Force to the game, starting with Cable and Domino. We’ve also now had a preview for Psylocke, who is our second Psionic hero and her deck looks like it could be very exciting indeed, so I’m looking forward to getting my hands on all of that, from the late summer onwards! I think it’s very safe to say that it’s an exciting time for Marvel Champions, still!

Necromunda has seen a new Law & Misrule campaign begin, of course, with my Delaque vs James’ Venator Gang. Game one was a crushing blow for the House of Shadow, so we now need to figure out the next scenario while (hopefully!) my Delaque can survive it! Much like Marvel Champions, we’ve also had new stuff come out for Necromunda this month, principally the second part of the Succession Campaign, The Vaults of Temenos. I keep meaning to write a blog on the lore of this campaign, because it has been really quite amazing so far. I’ll have to try harder on that front! The book has got some very interesting narrative scenarios, anyway, which I might possibly purloin across for our campaign, even though we’re not doing anything in the Ash Wastes. We shall see!


Let’s move on to the hobby side of things now, then, and see how April has been going on that front. The short answer is, pretty damn well! I think I talked about this in a previous blog, but I’ve decided to give the White Dwarf “hobby bingo” a try, and see if it will work to help focus me on getting some projects done throughout the year. I know I have my 2023 resolutions, and we’ll get to them in a bit, but I would like to see if I could churn out some more units as the year goes on. I’ve adapted the White Dwarf grid, because a lot of the options I would just never do (how many lords of war do people generally paint in a year?!) so have a more personalised, achievable grid to work from.

In April, then, I have added three more squares to this grid, getting ten more Delaque fighters fully painted (mainly the Prospects and weird gribblies), then five Flesh Tearer assault marines as I embark upon a Space Marines army, and finally the three Canoptek Wraiths that I have had waiting for paint easily for the last five years.

I’m really pleased with the Delaque, as it has given me quite a lot of options ready to go, even if most of them aren’t in the starting gang. However, I did fall prey to the temptation of the weapons upgrade pack back in the day, so a lot of these fighters are built with improbably-expensive weapons, meaning I’m unlikely to be able to use them in the current campaign. That has actually required more building, so I have a couple more to paint up for the campaign soon! Luckily, I had more Delaque from the Hive War box, so have a lot of bodies to draw from to build my gangers.

The Space Marines force is a very slow-grow style of thing, and while my initial thoughts had been to get it ready for 10th edition in the summer, I’m now thinking of it more as a project for the year, so I don’t think it’s something that will be playable before Christmas. But you never know. Expect more to come on this topic in time!

Finally, the Wraiths are another of my Hobby Goals for 2023 that I can now check off! I’m actually doing really well insofar as those goals are concerned, getting the Crisis Suits and some Hellions finished up fairly quickly. I still have the Promethium Forge, five more Hellions, the Sisters’ Exorcist tank, and generally more Zone Mortalis scenery, but I think it’s still a solid start. Feels a bit like I’m at a proper checkpoint here, the more I’m thinking about it! Well, I guess we’re one-third through the year, so it makes sense to take some stock.

I’ve been tentatively starting to plan the approach to the Exorcist tank, after recently getting more in the mood for painting my Sisters again. While the infantry all have quite light grey armour, I’m thinking I might go for something a bit different for the vehicles, which might help to make them stand out while also tying-in with the rest of the force. Well, I’m sure having a massive pipe-organ missile-launcher on top of the vehicle will help it to stand out, of course! I’ve been thinking about it after building up three Paragon Warsuits, which I had bought as part of the Imperium magazine (saving quite a bit of money in the process!) I was thinking the warsuit would perhaps be of a different grey to the power armour that the Sisters themselves wear, so was considering a base of Dark Reaper rather than Mechanicus Standard Grey. I’m not sure yet, because it might be a really bad idea on the whole. I suppose we’ll see! The other thing, of course, would be go to very light for the tanks, but then I’ve not seen a nice looking pale grey tank, so It could be a terrible idea…

However, I want to try to finish the Promethium Forge before anything else on the list, because that is almost done, it’s just been floundering a bit for the last couple of months!

Warhammer 40k: Leviathan

Well folks, here it is. The launch box for 10th Edition 40k has been revealed in all its glory today at Warhammer Fest, and I have to say, I’m very excited about it.

I think this is the first 40k launch box where I have a genuine desire for both sides – having recently embraced the Primaris for my Flesh Tearers project, I definitely want to get all those glorious bits; while Tyranids have recently come back to the fore for me as I’ve been arranging a game for the coming week using my bugs.

The Tyranids side of the box doesn’t look to be as big a departure from the current line as the Necrons were for their relaunch, which is nice. There are some huge things in here, which I’m quite excited about, so I’m looking forward to getting some of these onto the table in the fullness of time!

The Space Marines side of the box has got a lot of interesting things as well, which I’m intrigued by, to say the least. Aside from more character models, we’re getting a squad of flamer guys, the new Terminators, a new Dreadnought and Primaris-scale Sternguard. It’s these final two that really surprise me, though.

Since the launch in 8th edition, the official line has always been that Primaris marines are not going to replace the firstborn, but here we have a clear swap-out, as the original Sternguard, one of the “newest” mini-marine kits, is now being upscaled. The new Dreadnought is basically a Redemptor-scale Dreadnought, with the las cannon and missile launcher we know and love.

It’s interesting, because 10th edition could well be the start of these things disappearing for good, not that I want to get my tin foil hat out, of course! It’s a surprise to see, I suppose. A lot of people were expecting Primaris assault marines, with jump packs, but it looks like they may have to wait.

It looks like a cracking box, though, and I’m very excited to get my hands on it, assuming that it doesn’t just sell out in the first few seconds, as happens normally!!

Lord of the Rings: mission accomplished

Hey everybody,
Much like my post from a couple of months ago, I’m here today to celebrate having made it to 10 games of Lord of the Rings LCG, marking the second of my 10×10 goals as complete. I think I’d almost made it with this game for a while, but just couldn’t seem to bring myself to play the game. However, I’ve now clocked up my tenth play, and so thought I’d share with you some rambling thoughts, as per usual!

Lord of the Rings

Trouble in Tharbad

Following on from the last game in the Ringmaker cycle, The Three Trials, I think I was growing weary of this game once more, because of the preponderance of “gotcha!” moments. I know I’ve probably had this whinge before, but the game is no fun if there is simply no chance of beating it. If I know I’m unable to win from the get-go, why would I ever waste my time? Even when you know something awful is coming, the forced effects throughout the scenarios can mean there is very little you can do to plan ahead, as you’re just swept up in the torment of it all.

However, Trouble in Tharbad is a bit different. The Time X mechanic is still front and centre, but this scenario takes the very intriguing idea of playing with your threat level; instead of placing progress on the quest, instead you lower your threat. The Time counters do reduce your threat elimination level by 10, however, meaning you need to make sure you quest like the wind before you’re eliminated at 40 rather than the usual 50.

It’s a bit like many other scenarios, in that you’re basically trying to race away from an enemy mob at your back, and in this instance you’re trying to make it to the river crossing in time. This is represented by a location card that needs an unholy amount of progress, and can only be attempted once the quest has been achieved – the upside here, though, is that your threat will be starting from 0, albeit with plenty of effects that will raise that. It’s a really interesting quest that I would tentatively say I’d play again! I think it’s just a very interesting mechanic, playing with the threat like that, and one that I thought was very intriguing to see work.

For my next game, I’m going straight to the last cycle of the game! It’s been almost a year since I first played the Shadow in the East quests, and at least one of the decks I was using for those games has now morphed into something else, but I thought it would still be fun to see how I get on as I take a look at the final scenarios for the game.

Lord of the Rings

Wrath and Ruin

I really like this one. After learning the terrible truth about the mastermind behind the goings-on during our time in the profane temple to Sauron, the heroes have returned to Dorwinion to regroup, only to be pursued there by Thane Ulchor and his Easterlings! What follows is a scenario reminiscent of earlier quests, with the heroes battling to control locations in order to advance. The basic premise of this quest is therefore quite simple – as a location leaves play as explored, it comes to the players instead of going into the encounter deck. If there are more locations under the players’ control than there are in the staging area, then the players are winning.

However, so much is layered on top of this, with cards that can bring locations back into the staging area, or cards (like Ulchor himself) who can add more locations to the staging area as soon as a location leaves play. It really is quite representative of that tug-of-war style of play. We have the Easterling Raiders encounter set in here once again, which I really like in principle, but is tough to play against as it adds treachery cards to enemies as attachments, buffing those enemies (who are no pushover, to begin with!) 

Locations are also immune to player card effects, meaning that no amount of trickery is going to help here. The only thing that I felt gave me a bit of an edge was Legolas’ ability to add progress to the quest when he successfully slays an enemy – and there are plenty of them here! There was no early-game Light of Valinor to get double duty out of Glorfindel, either, so I was basically playing this as properly as it comes! Still, I was able to scratch a victory and so the next game will see me heading off to the City of Ulfast. 

I’m pretty sure I’m going to keep playing this game throughout the year. If nothing else, I’m mid-way through three cycle playthroughs, as well as possibly still playing the Fellowship Saga. I doubt if I’m going to clock up as many miles with this as I have with Marvel Champions, though, which is interesting in some respects because I do generally think of Lord of the Rings as “my favourite game”. I think the issue I have with it is just how difficult it got to play – especially if you don’t start to house-rule things to make it more palatable. I know I could deck-build for each scenario and play through it possibly quite well, but I like to have a deck ready to go for the whole event, and don’t really have the time for deck-building as much as I used to!

I think I currently have six decks built for Lord of the Rings, and I have been thinking I might disassemble everything when I’ve finished playing through these cycles, and have a fresh start. Some of those decks had been built years ago, and while they work really well, they have hampered subsequent decks because a lot of the good cards were already taken, etc. So I am pondering whether to just wipe the slate clean. I definitely want to keep going with Angmar Awakened, and I think I want to do the same with the Ringmaker, so I suppose it makes sense to just plod along for now.

Anyway, I’m rambling, so it’s time to shut up! There’s plenty more Lord of the Rings blogs on their way as the year goes ever on, though!

The Paradise Snare

Hey everybody,
Last year, I re-read a lot of the Star Wars prequel era stories, and it was a lot of fun (even if some of those things aren’t as good as I remembered!) After a bit of thought, I’ve decided this year I would like to get back to some of the other great (or not!) Star Wars books from my youth, and so have started with aplomb, with the Han Solo trilogy by AC Crispin.

First published back in 1997, the trilogy begins with The Paradise Snare, which sees a young (19, I think) Han escape his life as a pickpocket and thief with the criminal Garris Shrike, and make for the planet Ylesia, on the edge of Hutt space, to begin a new life as a pilot. Ylesia, a popular pilgrim retreat, turns out to be a spice processing operation run by the Hutts of clan Besadii, with the t’landa Til “priests” employed to give faux religious services, thanks to a biological quirk that allows them to project feel-good vibes. 

Han meets one of the pilgrims, Bria Tharen, and slowly a romance blossoms, culminating with the two escaping the planet after stealing some of the “high priest” Teroenza’s treasures to finance their new life. However, their bad luck starts almost as soon as Han tries to fence the stolen goods and ship, and only sours further when they meet up with Bria’s family. Han, who has dreamt of becoming an Imperial officer for as long as he knows, decides to go to Coruscant, but their bad luck gets worse, and in desperation Bria calls in a favour from her father to give Han the credits he needs, but then leaves him as she is fighting the urge to return to Ylesia for those feel-good vibes.

Embittered, Han follows through and joins the Imperial Academy, and after a final showdown with Garris Shrike on Coruscant, he is ready to begin his new life with the Empire – Solo.

I have to say, I do like this trilogy. I know that it has, at best, a mixed reception from the fans, and I think the accusations of “bad fan-fiction” and the like are sometimes quite justified. However, I do like it all the same! Bria Tharen is hands-down the biggest Mary Sue in the expanded universe – if you ever see a photo of the late Ann C Crispin, you’ll basically be looking at Bria Tharen. The romance between Han and Bria reads somewhat tawdry at times, as well – even trying to remember that this is a prequel, and so we can’t expect to read Han as he is in the original trilogy, it’s still a bit sappy at times.

The criminal stuff is a bit slap-dash, and reading it this time around I found myself smiling at the efforts to make Ylesia seem dangerous, and the like. We get the Oliver Twist knock-off that describes Han’s upbringing, complete with theft training droid called F8GN. Han also gets a Chewie surrogate in the shape of his Togorian minder, Mrrrov. It’s all a bit convenient, but who cares? Just sit back and enjoy the adventure. It’s not trying to be something that it’s not, but despite the convenient plot line, it’s still quite nicely written, regardless.

Of course, in the past I’ve talked about this sort of book far more critically. I suppose there is an element of nostalgia coming through for me here, as I did enjoy these books back in the day. Which makes me curious because I also had a soft spot for the Jedi Academy trilogy, but wasn’t impressed when I read it again a few years back. I’m thinking that this series is perhaps a little more grown-up than the others, maybe? Jedi Academy can be quite childish (blob races?) whereas the Han trilogy doesn’t quite go there. It does actually deal with some pretty strong stuff, the slavery and addiction storylines being at the fore there. It doesn’t take a long or hard look, of course, but it’s in there – and the way it’s handled makes for a very good storyline. It’s not going to set the world alight, but it’s solid.

But then, I’m strongly reminded that Star Wars isn’t actually meant to be a grim and gritty sci-fi story. I think that’s something that a lot of people seem to forget, really, but it came across real strongly when I was watching the award-winning Empire of Dreams documentary over Easter, as well as the Disney+ documentary on ILM. Star Wars is meant to be a story that gives people optimism, it’s meant to be a heroic space fantasy, buckling those swashes and all the rest of it! It’s the film that was such a success because it cheered up America after the Vietnam War, and went against almost the whole of Hollywood by being bright and optimistic in the face of the dark and gritty movies of the 70s. In this respect, I think a lot of the Bantam-era novels hit the mark really well. They aren’t the grim and gritty sci-fi of the New Jedi Order, or Shatterpoint, or anything else – they’re that Golden Age feel of stories of heroism and derring-do.

The Paradise Snare is a pretty fun story, as we see a young and fairly naïve Han Solo begin on the path that leads him to the cantina in Mos Eisley (quite literally – the third book ends as Han walks towards the table with Obi-Wan and Luke). It’s not a great book, but I did like it all the same!!

Delaque vs Venators: Last Stand

Hey everybody,
I recently talked about the new Necromunda campaign that James and I have embarked upon, he with his new Venator gang and me with my trusty Delaque. I say “trusty”, I’ve not played with them a whole lot of course! But they were the first gang I was playing this game with, and I really enjoy the sneakiness of the gang. Especially now they seem to have been toned down a little bit. It seemed like they were too powerful with their tactics cards, back when they came out. I suppose the ability to make the game night-fighting, and all the rest of it, wasn’t fun for a lot of other people…

For the first game, we’d again gone through the depths of the Necromunda library to play Last Stand, which was originally in Gang War 3, I believe. One gang is the attacker (me), and the other is the defender; the defender is deployed in the centre of the battlefield and the attacker can deploy to surround them. The object of the game for the defender is to survive to round seven, whereupon they will automatically win – as the attacker, I have to destroy the defender’s gang, because if there’s even one model on the board at the start of round seven, it’s a loss for me. 

I talked about this in the last blog, but I have a full ten-man starting gang, mainly made up of gangers but with a champion and three juves in the mix. Following on from the last campaign, I think the ability for juves to progress fast meant I was looking more at them to get some juicy benefits as we go along. However, it’s the perpetual trade-off, because juves have the worst stat-line.

At any rate, the game resulted in quite the bloodbath on my end, and an overall loss for the Delaque. My specialist with the long rifle was the first casualty, and he suffered a spinal injury to make matters worse! One of my juves has suffered an eye injury, which means his ballistics skill of 5+ is now a 6+, so that’s not the best start! My gang bottled out in round three, and the Venators bottled in round 6, though because we kept forgetting to take cool checks before subsequent activations, this didn’t prove to be too much of a hindrance! 

For me, I think my champion with the grav gun has to be the man of the match. He was superb, sneaking round the board to seriously injure three opposing fighters, killing two of them outright. The lowest point had to come where another of my juves, equipped with no lesser weapon than a web pistol, managed to web not only an enemy fighter, but also another ganger (who, in my narrative, was supposed to be helping him out on the field). He led to the loss of that ganger, and was himself taken out shortly afterwards – he actually suffered a critical injury and I didn’t want to try and take him to the doc, so he is my first actual casualty.

My leader, one juve and three gangers are now in recovery though, so my hopes are not high for how the next game is going to go! The one bright spot is that I have 75 credits in my stash, after collecting a bit of income from the rackets I control, and while I only managed to complete one intrigue during the game, the reward for that was to claim an unclaimed racket, so in terms of the campaign I feel like I’m not a million miles behind at the moment. But given that my starting gang for next time will be roughly 450 credits, it does mean I am eligible for some Underdog bonuses!

Underdog rules exist because a Necromunda campaign can get out of hand real quick, as I’ve seen with my Goliath. To help balance things up a bit, there are some rules to help bring things back into something like an equal footing. Almost every scenario that uses tactics cards allows the gang with a lower rating to pick an extra card for every full 100 credits difference between the two gangs, but there are also Underdog tactics cards which are quite powerful in their effects. These can be drawn instead of drawing two regular tactics cards, and are things like additional fighters, additional credits, fighters making a miraculous recovery, and so on. There are even tactics cards that give you bonus credits if your fighters go out of action, referencing the fact you probably have bad luck and you’re most likely going to see some death during the game.

I think these could be very useful to me in the next game, whatever that ends up being, because James has got too many fighters and too many credits already!

Enforcer: Legacy

Hey everybody,
After a hiatus of about five years, Dave and I have finally gotten round to our buddy read of the second book in the Shira Calpurnia series, Legacy. The first book, Crossfire, you can read about here! And Dave’s review of Legacy can be found here!

Shira is a member of the Adeptus Arbites, the intergalactic police force for 40k (they’re a step up from the local cops, the Enforcers, as they have the power to uphold the Lex Imperialis across any world they need to – so maybe like the Feds, if I understand how they work correctly…) The second book in the series deals with the handover of power among a Rogue Trader family, the Phrax flotilla. Their initial warrant of trade, affirmed by a drop of blood from the God-Emperor of Mankind himself, must be passed on physically from one Trader to the next on the world of Hydraphur, where Shira is based, and presided over by the Arbites.

It’s a great set-up, and the plot thickens first when a rival claim to the title comes into play, followed then by the attempts of the Adeptus Ministorum to claim the warrant as a relic of the Emperor, which it technically is. I loved seeing how Shira was able to juggle all of these competing factions with a wonderfully no-nonsense attitude – she isn’t written as a tough-guy or similar trope, but has a sort of slight weariness about her that makes her so dispassionate when dealing with the idiots around her, like the Ministorum priest tasked with retrieving the “relic”. 

The rival claim brings the Adeptus Mechanicus into play, because somehow the rival faction on-board has decided to basically “create” their own claimant by genetically altering the DNA coding of their candidate, so he can be correctly identified as a Phrax descendant. The process is awful and Farrer goes into some details that I rather wish he hadn’t, but even so, I just love the fact that the 40k universe is this bonkers. We have the usual clicking engines of the Mechanicus as they attempt to prove the DNA sample, and I thought it was oddly funny when the machine realises what is happening with the rogue DNA and basically shuts itself down in a huff.

The ending was a bit confusing, if I’m honest, as all of the action comes to a head. The genuine heir is making a very perilous Warp journey to get to Hydraphur, and we have all sorts of shipboard horrors to contend with, while the ceremony of passing on the warrant descends into an absolute bloodbath. What else can you expect from a 40k novel?

We both really enjoyed it, anyway – I think for me, this is a much better Rogue Trader novel than the actual Rogue Trader novel that I read recently. I love it when we get these sorts of things, as the game itself has only tentatively begun to branch out into the small corners of the 40k universe. Of course, it was only a few short months back that we got plastic Adeptus Arbites models, so it’s even nicer to now be reading about these guys as well.

I’m kinda running out of steam a bit, because I don’t have much more to say about this other than it’s highly recommended, so if you can, definitely pick up a copy and have a read!

Dunwich, once more

Tuesday is always game day here at spalanz.com, even if I don’t always get to post each and every time. Today, I’m heading back to Dunwich, for the third playthrough of the Dunwich Legacy campaign. This has been a bit of a dicey one for me so far – I set up some decks while riding high after the Dream-Eaters campaign at Christmas, but it took me almost a month to decide what to play, before I settled on Dunwich again. But after playing the first two scenarios at the end of January, I haven’t actually touched the game until the end of last week, when I went in for The Miskatonic Museum.

Dunwich Legacy

Despite having played this campaign the most, it never fails to surprise me how little I remember of the details, which of course means the replay value of this game is, for me, outstanding. As a story-driven game, it’s crucial that you can ‘forge your own path’ and so on, as if there is nothing really to be gained from playing the same story over and over. Having these kinds of branching paths is great, as you can make different choices to lead to different outcomes. For example, in the Museum scenario, you need to find a copy of the Necronomicon – when you do, you have a choice, whether to destroy it or to keep it safe. I’m fairly sure that in previous games, I’ve chosen to destroy the book, but this time, I’m going to keep it safe. Well, we shall see how that turns out!!

Dunwich Legacy

The investigators that I’m playing are quite interesting, both from the Dream-Eaters (coincidentally!) with some interesting abilities. Tony Morgan, the bounty hunter, has the ‘bounty contracts’ effect that allows him to put bounties on enemies as they are revealed and, when that enemy is defeated, claim said bounty as a resource. Playing a scenario with only one enemy in the whole deck is a bit of a waste, however, though when that enemy did show up, he was in his element! Mandy Thompson, the researcher, is a clue-gathering powerhouse, and has the ability to dig deeper when searching her deck, meaning I built her with a lot of ‘search your deck’ cards, but so far I don’t really think that has come up in games. Still, she’s able to just hoover up the clues, and I like that!

Excitingly, I have 11xp to spend, as I haven’t yet upgraded the decks this campaign. I think I might do that at the weekend, then maybe play some more.

Also excitingly, I was playing with some of the ‘new’ cards from the Return To box. In case you don’t know, each of the Return To boxes had additional player cards, and additional encounters for each of the scenarios of the cycle it revisits, though they also included alternate encounter sets for some of the commonly used sets from the core, like Ancient Evils and Creeping Cold. In theory, I could play this scenario with just this campaign, and not have to resort to core set standards. So that was nice! I think I’m going to try, as much as possible, to use these variant encounter sets during this campaign, anyway.

I’m sort of disappointed in myself, really, that I have been taking so long to get round to the game. It is, after all, a really good game! I suppose there’s a possibility that I’ve played this scenario too often to be that invested in the overall game, as I do know where we’re going ultimately, but hopefully I can still enjoy the ride during each game! And, hopefully, it will be a lot sooner than once every three or four months that I’ll be playing!

New Necromunda campaign!

Hey everybody,
We’ve sort of finished the Law & Misrule campaign with our Enforcers and Goliath, after things got a bit out of hand with the Goliath steam-rolling the Enforcers a few times, so James and I are planning the next campaign, for which we’re going for Venators and Delaque, respectively. After we had a couple more games the other week, it seems quite clear that the Goliath gang is running away with things, while the Enforcers are finding it difficult because of the fact most of the remaining fighters are rookie cops. I suppose we can think of this as an introduction to campaign play, perhaps, and the next one should be that much better. Well, we shall see!

James has put together a whole host of awesome looking Venators, using models from the breadth of the wider 40k range, including the weird stuff from Blackstone Fortress and Kill Team. The Enforcers haven’t entirely gone by the wayside, of course, as he has chosen the new Ashwood Stranger character model to lead them. So it’s a bit of a blend of the idea of an Outcast gang and a Venator gang, although I suppose he is a bounty hunter as well, so it kinda fits. It’s all about the narrative, though!

For me, I’m making a return to my Delaque after trying them out in a couple of skirmish games back in the day against his Orlocks. I think it’ll be interesting to see just how things can go for me this time, though, as I’m hoping to be able to use the whole gamut of stuff in House of Shadow. I’ve got a ten-man gang set up for 985 credits, which is quite exciting, with another 9 gang members to be painted up next, including the weird and wonderful stuff from the prospects box. I’m quite looking forward to seeing things like the psykers in action, and I think one of my first purchases as soon as I can afford it should be the Piscean Spektor! That thing is so delightfully weird, I just love it!

The main gang is a bit of a departure for me, really, in that I’m using a lot more juves than I usually do! I think this is possibly due to having played the campaign with my Goliaths, and seeing how advancements work a lot more. I think this is why I’ve been able to get so many bodies – I have a single champion with a grav gun, but everybody else has got really cheap weapons. Even my leader hasn’t got a great deal of cash splashed his way – he’s only the second-most expensive model in the gang because of the in-built cost of a leader! I suppose this is the ethos of the original Necromunda though, and why the basic gang boxes are equipped with the basic weapons, because with those sorts of guns and knives, you can easily get 10-man gangs from the off. Indeed, if I hadn’t been so extravagant with the champion, I could probably have pushed it to 11 or 12 fighters from creation!

However, like I said earlier, I’m most excited for adding more bodies to the gang as the campaign moves along, and I think there are quite a few articles out there that suggest numbers to start, then add in fancy guys as you build up through the campaign. So I will be aiming for a 200+ credits Nacht-Ghul or whatever once I have some sort of presence on the board! 205 credits for a Piscean Spektor? Yes please!

The Piscean Spektor is a house brute, a close combat monster with psychic powers, all wrapped up in a disturbingly alien shell. I have tried psychic stuff in Necromunda once before, using the Psy-Gheist model carrying a weird worm thing, but I didn’t entirely get how it all works, so I think it’s time for a refresher…

Psychic Powers are called Wyrd Powers in Necromunda, and are a type of action just like moving and shooting. In Delaque terms, the Psy-Gheists and Piscean Spektor are natural psykers; Leaders and Champions can be upgraded either for 30 credits at creation, or for 7XP during a campaign, to become psykers. For the Delaque, though, we’re not talking about huge displays of telekinetic mastery – they have a set of three disciplines of Psychoteric Whispers, which are all pretty nasty but all lean heavily into the theme of the gang. 

The Madness discipline is a delightful set of six powers that range from forcing enemy fighters to flee (with nearby enemies becoming Broken in turn), to removing ready markers. Delusion is wonderful, and can cause an enemy fighter to be treated as an enemy by their own gang, or allow you to take control and move an enemy fighter wherever you want. Finally, the Darkness discipline is a very sneaky way to give your psyker full cover wherever they are, or forcing all successful hit rolls to be re-rolled. It’s incredibly sneaky, and I can’t imagine it’s going to make me popular, but I kinda can’t wait to try these things out!

To use one of these powers, a psyker must first pass a willpower test. Delaque willpower isn’t awful, but for Psy-Gheists it’s an 8+ which seems odd, when you think they’re meant to be natural psykers. I suppose it reflects the impulsive nature of prospects, or something. The Spektor, on the otherhand, has a willpower of 6+, so shouldn’t be too difficult to pull it off. That said, all psykers have access to the Concentrate (Basic) action, which allows them to add 1 to the next willpower check they make, so that should help. Some psychic powers are labelled as “continuous effect” as well, which requires a Maintain Control (Simple) action first – this is another willpower check, though made at +3, so should be fairly straightforward to do. As in regular 40k, double 1s and double 6s cause Perils of the Warp, which is a 2D6 table of horrible things, including the possibility of daemonic possession!

I’m really looking forward to trying out some psykers in Necromunda!

Happy Birthday to me

I’m 9 today! I didn’t realise it was coming up, somehow – clearly, gone are the days when I would celebrate with a whole Birthday Week!! How remiss of me.

Well, I’ve had a bit of a mini-celebration, all the same, playing some Marvel Champions with a new acquisition, the Scarlet Witch deck.

Marvel Champions

Of course, for the first outing it was a toss-up between Vision and Quicksilver, but I went for the latter as so much of those decks appears designed to work together. I was really impressed with how they both played – Quicksilver I’ve played before, of course, but I do enjoy how he’s able to just do so much, thanks to being able to ready himself so often. Scarlet Witch, on the other hand, is pretty good at throwing damage around thanks to the Chaos Magic effects of using the boost icons of the encounter deck to her advantage. It’s really quite something, I have to say. She’s also quite efficient in how she can draw and discard cards to find the right cards.

I’d definitely like to play both of them again, though I can see ways in which I could potentially tinker with them both. I definitely need to try and rein myself in on that front, as I really do enjoy playing with the precon decks, after all!

So. 2024 marks a full decade of blogging here. I wonder what I could do to mark that milestone…

The Witcher: The Lady of the Lake

The conclusion to the epic of Geralt, Ciri, Yennefer and all the rest of it comes in the longest novel of the series, as we see pretty much all of the plot threads going right back to the short story anthologies being tied up. Here be spoilers!

Similar to the last book, in fact more so than the last book, the timeline is pretty much all over the place, as Sapkowski appears to delight in using all manner of framing stories-within framing stories, so we start off with Ciri arriving in the time of King Arthur and telling her story to Sir Galahad, but then we go off on tangents with the sorceress Nimue and her protégé Condwiramurs (more Arthurian nods) trying to work out the end of the Ciri legend, based on the wealth of material that had sprung up since.

We jump to see what Geralt and co are up to, as they spend the winter in the Duchy of Toussaint, and we actually get Geralt being a witcher once more in these portions, which is nice because he hasn’t done his actual job since the very first anthology, as far as I recall. We also get to see what happened when Ciri went through the portal in the Tower of the Swallow at the end of the last book – in short, it wasn’t good. She was effectively held by a race of elves who wanted her to produce a child, who was prophesied to become the most powerful magic user of all time, and who would prevent the end of the world. Or something. Ciri eventually escapes, but is forced to rove through time and space as she attempts to undo the magical barrier holding her beyond the Tower, and is only able to make it back to her own time thanks to the intervention of Nimue and Condwiramurs.

Everything comes to a head when Ciri willingly goes to confront Vilgefortz, and attempts to sell herself in place of Yennefer. However, Vilgefortz’s magic is too strong, and he then attempts to impregnate her to get the prophesied child. Geralt and co are able to rescue her, however, with Regis, Cahir and Angouleme all perishing in the task. Geralt frees Yennefer, and together they are able to defeat Vilgefortz while Ciri is finally able to reach the calm centre within herself to best Leo Bonhart. With the arrival of the Emperor Emhyr, all of the rogue elements under Vilgefortz are defeated, and Geralt is finally able to put all the pieces together. Emhyr is none other than Duny, Ciri’s father, and we learn the torrid backstory of how he came to be cursed, and why he wants to marry his own daughter. When Geralt and Yennefer are asked to commit suicide to keep the secret, however, Ciri is able to intervene and Emhyr renounces his plans, marching back to Nilfgaard with his troops.

We then have an epilogue, of sorts, as we learn of the Peace of Cintra, where the northern kings gather to celebrate the end of the war. A lot of loose ends begin to get tied up, including one where Ciri was said to have brought about the end of the world back in book two. During her jumping around space and time, she brought with her a flea from a plague-infested port, which jumps from her and lands on a rat, which in turn arrives on a boat in the Cintran harbour and is eaten by a cat, and so it goes. The Sorceress’ Lodge basically forces Ciri to agree to their plan for her future, where she will bear a child with one of the northern princes, but before going through with it she goes to meet with Geralt in Rivia. In the wake of the war, Rivia is a bit of a powder-keg, and while Geralt and Dandelion wait for Ciri to arrive, they meet up with Yarpen Zigrin shortly before all hell breaks loose, and the town erupts in a huge riot. Geralt, in a final effort to stand up for good against evil, is mortally wounded and dies just as Ciri and Yennefer arrive. Yennefer expends all of her strength trying to save Geralt, but in vain.

In a quasi-mystical ending, a boat appears on the nearby lake, and Ciri rows the bodies of Geralt and Yennefer out into the mist. We then return to Ciri and Sir Galahad, where she finishes her story with a fabricated happy ending, and the two ride off into the sunset.

This is one hell of a ride, and I have to say, I’m glad to have been part of a buddy read doing this, because I don’t think I would have stuck with it otherwise. Jenn gave up after Time of Contempt, and I think I would probably have done so at that point, as well. I think, overall, there is a fairly decent story in here. Having only the most basic of ideas of what it was all about thanks to my buddy Tony telling me all about him years ago (and we played the board game that one time, as well), I didn’t really know what I was letting myself in for. However, I didn’t necessarily have the high hopes that Dave had, from playing the video games. I was very impressed with the first anthology, I thought there was some very interesting ideas that I was excited to explore as we got into the full novels.

However, in the end it seemed that the novels’ main premise was to abuse Ciri as much as possible, and have Geralt and his party spend three full books wandering around trying to find her. We seemed to have a random international war thrown into the mix as well, and a very confusing coup within the sorcerers’ community that I think it has taken the full five-novel series to make sense of. Bad writing? Maybe. I sometimes wonder if I had read these books back to back, maybe they’d make more sense? I often wonder as well whether it would make more sense to re-read them, knowing how everything now works out, but I don’t think I’m quite ready for that yet. As it stands, it felt like a pretty jumbled mess, and I’ve made the point before about the war seeming to come out of nowhere, with little to no explanation given other than to have it provide the backdrop.

I think that’s because of the pacing of the narrative. I think the story could have been told in at most a trilogy, if there had been a tighter focus and without the padding. There’s a lot that happens, politically, in book two, but book three just seems to be the tale of how Geralt hooked up with Milva, Cahir and Regis, but it’s long. Book four is almost a study in the art of the novel, and I think the narrative suffers for it, as Sapkowski almost seems to be showing off with his multiple layers of framing stories. If it was told as a simple linear story, albeit with all of the threads still present, it could perhaps have been a lot shorter. Book five has a real issue with the timeline, and which frame we’re currently looking through, and so on. I’ve read reviews from people who really enjoyed it, but it felt to me too much like it was trying to be difficult to have sense made of it.

As I have read my previous blogs on the earlier books to gain some sort of perspective for this, I’m quite surprised that I seemed to enjoy them individually, even if I wasn’t entirely sure about what was going on, particularly because of the broad-strokes politics and geography. 

While I was able to enjoy the individual books for what they were at the time, I think when you look at this as a series, it does suffer, particularly because there are so many ways in which I think it could have been better. Even the inclusion of a map would have been helpful, to see where all these places are that are being talked about. I think it was particularly disappointing for book three, which is so much a travelogue but without any idea of where all these places are, it becomes less an epic journey through the war-torn landscape, and just a mass of confusing place-names.

I’m flip-flopping a lot here with whether I actually enjoyed this series or not, aren’t I? I think I’m just confused by the whole thing. While I had no preconceptions for the series, I think the short stories led me to think the main novels would go in a certain way, but then things turned out wildly different. I am glad to have read them, of course, as it’s one of the oft-talked-about book series within the general geek-type circles, but I have definitely struggled through the whole thing, if I’m honest. 

I’m glad that I’ve read it, but I’m glad that it’s over. I guess there’s not a lot more that I can say.