Deck Progression in Arkham Horror LCG

Hey everybody,
Today’s topic is something that I’ve been thinking about off-and-on for quite a while now, but it wasn’t until my recent run-through of the Dunwich Legacy campaign that I began to think about it properly. Arkham Horror LCG is quite unique among the LCGs that I have experience with, for having the mini-RPG feel of levelling up your deck as you go through the game. Throughout each campaign, you’ll earn experience equal to the victory total among cards in the display, so whenever you defeat a big bad, or you fully investigate a difficult location, you could earn any amount of experience. This is then used as a currency between games to level-up cards in your deck. Cards in Arkham Horror LCG have “pips” underneath their resource cost, from 0 to 5, which denotes how much experience is needed to buy them for your deck. When you build a deck to start a game, you can only use level 0 cards, but as time goes on, you can grow it in all kinds of ways.

Sounds amazing, and like it should lead to a truly immersive experience as you go through a campaign. However, I find myself really struggling to find cards to spend that XP on, most of the time. So I’ve been thinking a lot about this, and I’ve been doing some research, and thought I’d present to you all the fruits of these labours. I’m by no means an expert in this, of course! But hopefully it’ll be useful. For the purposes of this discussion, I’m not going to talk about using experience to play standalone scenarios, which is another use of XP; this post is simply going to look at upgrading your deck as you play through the campaign.

Arkham Horror LCG

First of all, and perhaps the easiest way to use experience points, is to directly upgrade copies of existing cards in your deck, for their higher-cost equivalents. That’s a higher cost in terms of the experience, not resources cost to play the card in-game. So the level 0 talent Hyperawareness costs 2 resources to play, and allows you to spend a resource to boost an attribute as a free action; the level 2 equivalent costs 0 resources to play, for the same effect. It also includes twice as many icons on the left hand side, so if you choose to commit it to a skill test instead, it’s giving you twice as much value. The level 4 version actually gives you the resources you need to trigger the effect, as well. It’s a good example of the principle, and provides the clearest target for your experience to upgrade the card, especially as it’s a much better version of an effect that you already had in the deck. With each class having a couple of these talent cards, it’s an excellent starting point.

There are a number of similar instances as well, where you’ll get weapons which may cost less in their upgraded cost, or with better effects, and so on. With the card pool where it is now, there are plenty of cards which can be straight-upgraded, although back in the day these options were of course more limited. In this respect, then, upgrading your deck becomes easier with more releases for the game, because the designers will still go back and provide upgrades (or downgrades) of older cards. It makes it easy, because you don’t really have to think about which cards to cut from your deck in favour of the fancier cards, I guess!

The way you approach deck progression can actually depend on whether you’re playing super-thematically, or whether you’re simply trying to make your deck the best it can be. I must admit, for all that I love the narrative of games (especially this game), I tend towards the latter, as I want to have the best options available to me when I go through my games. However, many cards exist as multiple points on the experience “tree”, so there will be a stepped approach to including them in your deck. Being able to upgrade a card to a level 1 or 2 version, then upgrade that same card again to a level 3 or 4 version, does have a thematic sense, especially if it is a skill that you can imagine your investigator learning, and getting better at applying to the traumatic events unfolding. 

Working this way makes sense, naturally, but it has taken my writing this blog now to realise that the best way to spend experience is actually when you get it, unless you’re saving for something specific. While playing through the Dunwich Legacy campaign recently, I played through four scenarios without upgrading my deck once, meaning I had accrued 13 experience points with nothing to spend it on. However, making small adjustments after each game is perhaps a much better way to go about things, as I think it could lead to some better games with potentially stronger synergies over time. It also fits into the more narrative method of playing, as you’re slowly getting better after each encounter with the Void, rather than having it all in one hit.

But I suppose that’s just symptomatic of the fact I don’t really have a plan!

I think my biggest confusion with it all arises when you’re going for a completely different card, though. So you might be looking to swap in a level 5 weapon and find that your best swap out is a level 0 event, or something. There’s something of a disconnect for me, when you build the initial level 0 deck almost as a placeholder for some of the better, higher-level cards. It’s almost like you include some chaff to then purposefully upgrade later on. Or, and this is how I usually end up building a deck, I try to get it as best I can with the level 0 cards and, when I start to gain the experience, I find that the deck is working fine for me so I don’t have many viable targets for upgrade. Yes, there will be the standard straight-upgrades for better higher-level cards, but not all level 0 cards have a level 5 version (some don’t have any upgraded version, at all). In fact, there are some very useful – even some very powerful – level 0 effects that just don’t need upgrading. It seems perhaps odd, but I truly believe you could play through an entire campaign without upgrading your deck, if you built it well from the off. I know that the choice of investigators must be key, being balanced for each other and for the scenario, but even so, my getting through so much of the recent Dunwich visit without upgrading once is perhaps proof of that – I only started to spend the XP because I felt as though I had to!

In this case, I suppose it works best to have some kind of blend of the two approaches, so that you’re trying to build a good deck, that will see you through the first few games, but that has a clear trajectory for upgrade through the campaign. When building the deck, then, it might make sense to look at the level 5 cards first, to see where you might want to aim for, and then work backwards to see what sort of path you could take to get there.

Arkham Horror LCG

For example, I’ve recently played through the Innsmouth Conspiracy campaign with Zoey Samaras, and had decided from the off that she would be built into a sort of “holy warrior” character, going for blessed effects, willpower buffs and hitting like a brick wall in combat. I definitely wanted that level 5 spear in the future, but more importantly, I wanted to build out thematically. There’s more to say on this in the upcoming blog on my Innsmouth experience, which is coming next week, but this approach to deck building was new for me, and required a lot more work than I’m used to, but I actually found it really rewarding!

Going off-topic slightly, I think I have also come undone at times by simply not really knowing the investigator class all that well. I think Guardian is perhaps the most straightforward, although there are nuances there that I like, and Seeker and Mystic are quite clear in what they are all about. Indeed, trying to build a Mystic deck can sometimes be an exercise in restraint, because there are too many good options to take account of. In contrast, Rogue and Survivor are perhaps the classes that I am least familiar with, although I have attempted to remedy that as regards Survivor in previous games. Rogue is still a class that often eludes me how to best play it, however, which is why I paired Zoey with Finn Edwards in my recent Innsmouth visit. Again, there’s more to say on his deck as well, but you’ll have to wait for the next blog for that!

Being able to make sense of what you’re trying to do is probably key, though, as it will allow you to make that decision for whether you want to swap out certain cards, or which level 0 cards you could keep in your deck. It’s all tied into having that trajectory, of course, and knowing how you want to progress your investigator through the campaign.

Arkham Horror LCG

The other thing to bear in mind through all of this, though, is what your investigator is actually trying to do, of course. Marie, above, wants cards with doom on them so that she can take extra turns with her spells, so you need to make sure there are such cards to give you benefits of the investigator’s ability. As you go through the process of upgrading a deck, you need to bear these things in mind, rather than going ahead to get straight-up better cards. It’s a case of upgrading spells with spells, and so on. That said, we could be back in the realms of having chaff cards in the starting deck, with an eye to upgrade for some more powerful cards later on, which will feed in to the investigator’s ability. This can happen where the lower level card is either too expensive to consider for a starting deck, or a lower level card doesn’t exist.

A lot of this missive has talked about upgrading to higher level cards, but there is equally the option of side-grades, where you trade out cards of the same level. Doing this will cost one XP, as the minimum spend is 1, but it does mean that you can try out other stuff if your upgraded card isn’t working out for you. I have sometimes done something similar with level 0 Mystic cards, as there are so many good ones, it can sometimes be hard to know which ones to use. I know some folks like to allow a limited number of swap outs for level 0 cards after the first game in a campaign, to keep the XP gained but to guard against a dud card in your deck, which is a good idea, but I do like the fact you can keep on using different level 0 cards throughout a campaign, regardless.

The more I’ve looked into it, and the more I’m writing this, it’s making me realise that my usual approach of just levelling up at random, picking the higher-level versions of cards already in my deck (because I don’t know what else to get!) is not really working for me. After Dunwich, I chose Innsmouth for my next campaign, because of the campaigns I own, that’s the only one I hadn’t at the time played through fully (I’d started, but was defeated before the end). So I came up with a bit of a checklist for how to approach this next game, in terms of what I wanted from it, and where I was going with my investigators!

All in all, thematic deck progression feels the best, and most correct way to play this game. I have pretty much always enjoyed playing Arkham Horror LCG, but upgrading my deck was always something of a necessity, and seemed to get in the way of the game. I’d often approach it as an exercise is getting the biggest gameplay buffs to help me win in the end. But by building slowly, levelling up as often as I could, I was able to develop a narrative for the investigator over the course of the campaign. Zoey went from a fairly decent bruiser-type into quite the holy warrior that I had envisioned at the start, with a number of tricks up her sleeves, but she never used guns, and always had a focus on faith as she moved through, even so far as taking Brother Xavier down into the depths for the final scenario!

That’s also an important point to mention, here. Deck progression in this thematic manner isn’t simply a case of going from level 0 to level 5 by the time we get to the last scenario. I’d upgraded a couple of Zoey’s cards before the finale, including Brother Xavier who is s level 1 ally. It seemed as good a time as any to involve him, but by having the plan in place, and focusing on those key upgrades where possible, it was actually nice to have the ability to use some of the leftover XP to get some less-important stuff later in the campaign. It’s not all about building to the flashy cards, and indeed, some of the lower or mid-level cards are just as good and important to a deck as the top level stuff. But as I said before, you’ll still find a strong use for level 0 cards even by scenario 8, so it’s not like a deck building game where you’ll wish you could get rid of your basic cards after buying the flashier ones!

I hope this post has been of some interest for you, and if you’ve made it this far, fully heal your stamina, for sure! Look out for my next Arkham blog, which I hope to write up next week, where I’ll be putting all of this into practice as I take Zoey and Finn on a trip to the seaside…

40 games with Elder Sign

Hey everybody,
It’s time for another game day blog, and in celebration of 40 plays with the game, I’m once again talking about Elder Sign, and the second expansion for the game, Gates of Arkham! Released back in 2015, this was the expansion that blew the game right open, taking us out of the museum and into the wider town. As such, the gameplay, while broadly similar, does have some significant changes along the way. We have a massive stack of adventure cards, but they’re double-sided now, and colour-coded with red for hard and green for easy (relatively speaking), as well as a passive effect that could be something that is beneficial, or could be an ‘At Midnight’ or similar effect. When set up, there are three cards face up, and three face down, although the adventure card stack is kept face down as you’d expect. I quite liked this idea of having some inkling of what is coming up next, whether it’s a green or yellow (or red) adventure, and it can allow you to plan for where you might want the card to go (more shortly).

Elder Sign

This ‘Streets of Arkham’ mode brings us the classic locations that we know and love from the Arkham Horror board game, so it definitely gets me right in the feels for that. The game mode uses its own mythos deck, because there is a greater emphasis on opening gates to Other Worlds in this one, as perhaps the name would suggest. These Other Worlds now enter play through gates, which can be brought into play via the mythos deck, or by the Ancient One’s doom track or monster defeats. When the Other World is drawn, a gate token is placed on it, and a corresponding token placed on one of the adventure cards. If you ever try to move to that adventure, instead you have to encounter the Other World, and if you succeed at the tests there, you close the gate and place a seal marker on the adventure card. It’s a bit convoluted, if I’m honest, but it does bring the gates mechanic from Arkham Horror into this game, which is nice to have I guess.

Elder Sign

Also new are Events, another deck like the mythos deck which can be drawn if an adventure has the event icon. These cards are an almost equal mix of good and bad effects, and you never really know if you’re going to get the red dice for free, or if you cannot use unique items and spells for this adventure. In this expansion, we have the option to join the Silver Twilight Lodge, or the Sheldon Gang, which will grant bonuses when trying to complete some adventures (as well as allowing us to auto-complete some tasks without rolling the dice), but the mythos deck can penalise us for being members. This is where the face-down adventure stack comes into play – if you know you want to join the Sheldon Gang, and Hibbs’ Roadhouse is up next, you might go for a face-down adventure in the hope of completing it, so that it will be replaced by a face-down Hibbs’ Roadhouse that you can then use to join the gang. Finally, we have a new Skills deck, much like the common and unique items decks. These skills are quite useful, allowing you to draw two events and discard one, for example, or allow another investigator to recover sanity or stamina on your turn, etc. They are good to have, for sure, but I feel a tiny bit sad that they’re not backwards-compatible with the museum setting, too. 

The adventures in Streets of Arkham mode are a definite step-up from the base game, I would say. There aren’t quite so many Terror or At Midnight effects going off, but in general the adventures will have flat restrictions on them, like “skip your movement phase” so you’re stuck there until you complete it. There is also a wider range of rewards and setbacks for completing or failing adventures – there is a lot of ‘don’t advance the clock’ effects, as well as recovering sanity and stamina for completing the adventure. They can also be quite difficult, because you can potentially be forced to discard assets for failing. Also, cursed/blessed is back, though in a somewhat subtle way. I do love the mechanic, but it does mean you need to have Unseen Forces for the dice, unless you particularly want to be re-rolling your green dice to stand in for them.

Elder Sign

All in all, it is a solid expansion, and takes the game in a very different direction from the base game. Subsequent expansions have followed this model, from what I can tell, and provide a completely new adventure deck for the game. I’ve only played Omens of Ice up to this point, but it looks like all the other expansions also have a solid brick of adventure cards to work through.

So I’ve worked out that I’ve played Elder Sign 40 times now, since first picking it up in 2012. That isn’t really a lot of games for 11 years, I’ll grant you, but I suppose there was a lull in games generally from 2015. I often find that I have lots of peaks and troughs with this game, though. In many ways, I think it could actually be one of my absolute favourite games – it’s pretty self-contained, even accounting for the expansions, and I think I have had so much enjoyment from the base game alone, that I don’t always feel the need for any expansions to make it good. Of course, the expansions are always welcome, but it surprises me at times how I don’t automatically think to play with any of them.

Elder Sign

Last week, I played with Gates of Arkham three times in a single day, mainly because I had the time and inclination to get an expansion out for the game, but it surprised me just how much I was enjoying the Streets of Arkham mode. I’ve now played with the expansion more in the last week than I have in the eight years since it was released! I think more than anything, I enjoyed getting back to the Arkham locations, and my first game (Finn Edwards and Norman Withers vs Atlach-Nacha) was such a washout that I had to shuffle up and re-set. I next went with my most recent duo in Arkham Horror LCG, Mandy Thompson and Tony Morgan (which was fun to dig into the next expansion, Omens of Ice, for his card), and that was a great game, very wide-ranging, with Mandy joining the Silver Twilight Lodge and Tony racking up quite the body count during the course of the game. Indeed, it was Tony’s soujourn into Ry’leh that gained three elder signs at a critical moment to ensure Mandy was able to pull out a win.

Elder Sign

For the big 40, I had a bit of a composite game with investigators from Unseen Forces and an Ancient One from the base game, playing in Streets of Arkham mode, and it was really glorious. It helped, somewhat, that there weren’t a great deal of elder signs coming up as rewards, so as Hastur needed 13 to seal him away, the game went on quite long. But that just helped to really immerse myself in the proceedings. I was playing as Mark Harrigan and Diana Stanley, a classic combination that I enjoy ever since I had read the brief intro text in the Eldritch Horror rulebook. Having such a long game allowed me to experience more of what the game has to offer, although I was bizarrely rolling exceptionally well, to the point where it almost became boring – Diana was blessed early on, and re-joined the Order of the Silver Twilight. Mark was able to get so many items, and keep getting them, as well as a huge amount of clues, that it was never really a problem for him, either. I do like his passive ability to complete tasks in any order, regardless of an arrow – I think him and Amanda Sharpe from the base game (who can complete any number of tasks simultaneously) would be quite a potent combo.

There’s no doubt about it, the Streets of Arkham game mode is a lot more involved than the regular museum game. There is so much going on, it is a definite improvement on the base game in that sense. I suppose you could say that the base game will draw people in, but this expansion is the one that makes Elder Sign a real board game. Well, it’s all cards and dice, but you know what I mean. A lot of people online have said that it’s the only way they would now play the game, and I can see why they would say that. It definitely feels like the Arkham experience, and I think I want to try and mix-and-match more stuff from across the base game, Unseen Forces, and this one for some hefty games going forward!

Star Wars: Shatterpoint

Somehow, it seems to have passed me by that there is a miniatures game coming out, set in the GFFA – I can only assume that it’s because I have assumed any references I have seen were to do with the novel of the same name, but anyway.

Shatterpoint seems like it could be good. Small-ish scale, squad based miniatures game that reminds me strongly of the old Star Wars Miniatures game from WotC, it really seems to just speak to me. I’m also feeling a bit down with GW games at the minute, possibly due to the imminent release of 10th edition making it a weird time, plus all the negativity that surrounds pretty much any new release of theirs right now.

James and I are looking to get the core set between us, I’m most likely going to cancel my Leviathan pre-pre-order so as to afford this. From what I can see, though, the game is just based on having two squads as your force, so it isn’t a particularly heavy investment as you pick up a box as you see fit. It looks fun, even though the clone war era isn’t probably my absolute favourite! I think I read somewhere that it evokes those feelings of being a 10-year-old on a Saturday morning and, while it’s been a long time since I was that young, I really like that idea…

Lots more to be said on this, for sure, but for now… I’m excited!!

Goodbye to Dunwich

Hey everybody,
The Dunwich Legacy continues apace, after a very slow start. Last week, I played my way through the bulk of the campaign, I think, getting into Dunwich village itself and then rescuing some of the innocent bystanders from this whole affair. After putting Silas Bishop out of his misery, I’ve then been running around Dunwich countryside trying to chase down the spawn of Yog Sothoth. Undimensioned and Unseen is a really interesting scenario, I think I’ve mentioned this a while back on the blog when I was last playing the game. There are six locations in play, again all classic Dunwich Horror locations like Cold Spring Glen and the Whateley Ruins. There will be a pre-determined number of these spawn creatures roaming the countryside, and each location will allow you to manipulate the number of clues that can be put on them. This becomes important because you can’t attack them until you advance the act, which in turn will give the investigators the power to make attacks, which use willpower instead of fight, and you get +2 bonus for each clue on the spawn.

Arkham Horror LCG

So there’s a lot going on that might not be immediately clear to you – it really gives the feeling that you’re an investigator, trying to piece together the clues.

Arkham Horror LCG

The next scenario, Where Doom Awaits, sees us climb Sentinel Hill once more to finally remove the stain of Yog Sothoth from the world. Along the way, we are beset by cultists and the like, and the path isn’t exactly clear at first, due to a strange mist barring our progress. It’s quite a thematic scenario, once more – when we do get to the summit, we find Seth Bishop there trying to call down the cataclysm, and we need to stop him!

Arkham Horror LCG

Now, I do enjoy this campaign, as I have immense affection for the source material as well as the board game. However, part of me can’t help but feel like it’s just been a bit of a slog to actually play it. Part of this might be down to my choice of investigators, of course, as well – they have been interesting to play, but I don’t think I’ve been particularly attached to either of them. As I think I mentioned in my previous Dunwich blog, I’ve been feeling a bit annoyed with my deckbuilding for them, particularly in regards to the experience that I have built up, but seem to have no inclination to spend.

So, I’ve resigned from the campaign, poised as I was on the brink!

Tony and Mandy have been put away for a rest, after their ordeal, and soon I think I’ll be choosing my new investigators ready for the next campaign. I am about 90% sure I’ll be trying to make my way through the Innsmouth campaign, having resigned from that one when my poor investigator choice led to some un-fun games, but I have also been considering perhaps going to Carcosa or Circle Undone once again. There is so much to enjoy about the game, I feel spoiled for choice!

It has made me think a bit differently about this game, though. I’d put Arkham Horror LCG on my 10×10 list at the start of the year, mainly because I’d been really enjoying my time with the Dream-Eaters before Christmas, and I suppose the thought that a campaign would be 8 games, so it would make things quite easy in that regard! However, given the fact I had such a long gap between games at the start of this one, I think that has shown that my heart wasn’t really in it. I was just playing the game for the sake of it, really, and while it has been fun at times, I can’t say that I’ve enjoyed it overall. I certainly wasn’t looking forward to playing it for the sake of playing, as evidenced by the four month gap between games two and three! There’s also the fact that the investigators were built with no specific campaign in mind, but rather just to have some decks ready to go for the next campaign, whatever that may have been. I have been thinking a lot about deckbuilding for this game lately, and I want to try to change up my approach to this for the next one. There’s a lot more to be said about this, however, so stand by for another post in the not-too-distant future!

At any rate, I’m ending my stint in Dunwich for the time being. I’ll have to have a think about which campaign will be coming next, and also which investigators will be along for the ride, and then take it from there. Of course, I’ll be rambling all about it here, when the time comes!

Getting back to Dunwich

Hey everybody,
Thankfully it hasn’t been quite so long since the last game this time, but I have made some more progress with my ongoing Dunwich Legacy play-through. It’s the third time I’m playing through this campaign, as I’ve said already, and I’m playing as Tony Morgan and Mandy Thompson, who I am not convinced are the best partners for this one! Though I suppose I played through the Carcosa campaign with Daisy and Ashcan Pete, so it’s not like I haven’t played with mis-matched pairs before now!

Arkham Horror LCG

After escaping from the Miskatonic Museum with the Necronomicon, I’m on the train to Dunwich. I had definitely forgotten just how much fun the Essex County Express is, though. In my mind, I think I was writing it off as being a bit of a road block to us getting to Dunwich, but in reality, I really enjoyed the mechanics of the scenario, as the end carriages of the train were sucked into the void and we had to make our tortured progress onwards towards the engine. At least Tony had much more to do this time, with there being more enemies for him to gun down. There are plenty of Cultists on the train, one of my favourite encounter sets for the game that sees them enter play with a doom token, and there are numerous other ways to play around with this mechanic. I am using the alternative encounter cards from the Return To box as well, Resurgent Evils and the like, which is nice to help this run through feel a bit different. It isn’t a proper Return To… campaign per se, although I have begun to think maybe I could start to sub in those cards as well, and get more of a flavour of how that goes.

Arkham Horror LCG

After playing the Essex County Express, I finally went through to use all of that experience and level up my decks, as I had a total of 13 xp from the campaign so far, and I suppose I am at the half-way point! In my head, they were using their time on the train to ready themselves for what will be facing them when they get to Dunwich!

Arkham Horror LCG

The next scenario, Blood on the Altar, has us racing around Dunwich itself as we try to find out why the townsfolk have been disappearing. It’s all very wonderful, as I do enjoy these sorts of quests where the old boardgame is recreated for us. I was able to rescue all but one of the townspeople, anyway, so have now got a bunch of assistance as we go forward into the campaign. Indeed, this scenario is then followed by another interlude, which has the flavour of a re-set about it – no matter how badly we’ve been doing up to this point, we have another opportunity to rescue the folks who we should have already got while still in Arkham in the earlier quests, and indeed, we have two ways to get the Powder of Ibn-Ghazi, which I think becomes critical in the next scenario. It’s all very useful, though, and I have another 4 XP to add to the bank, so I can’t complain! I think I’ll need another pitstop to upgrade some more before I carry on, anyway.

However, deck-progression (as opposed to deck-building) in Arkham Horror LCG is definitely something that I feel I’m not good at, as I often get into these situations with a lot of XP and no idea what to do with it! I might write up some thoughts on that at some point. As it stands, I’ve just made some fairly basic swaps for stuff at a higher level, and I’ll see how I get on with them. Oddly, though, I’ve found myself wanting to deckbuild for some new investigators, so I can try out some different things! 

So, after having taken my time so far this year to get moving with this campaign, I am now well and truly in the thick of it, with just three more scenarios to go before I see if I can indeed save the world. Fingers crossed…

My week with Marvel Champions

Hey everybody,
It feels like a while since I’ve had a game with Marvel Champions, certainly since I’ve done one of these round-up style blogs. Today, though, I thought I’d have a bit of a rambling talk about some of the games that I’ve been playing, all of which have involved Justice and Protection decks, although that was a completely unplanned theme. I’ve finally gotten round to playing with Ghost Spider and Miles Morales, despite having had the box since Christmas, and I’ve had a game with some of the newer X-Men heroes, as well!

Marvel Champions

Sinister Motives is the box that I have played the least, in part because I’m not really that big a Spidey fan. He’s fine, and all, but I’m just not really that into his whole universe of goings-on. However. This has started to change recently when my eldest has started to get into Spidey and his Amazing Friends on Disney+. I think it started from a boy in her preschool class being into Marvel, and she’s taken an interest in daddy’s game ever since. Anyway! After a few weeks of seeing the adventures of Spider-Man, Ghost Spider & Miles Morales (who is called Spin, apparently?) I thought I could take them out for a game against Mysterio – who I’ve gone up against a few times already.

It was pretty good, I must say. Mysterio’s thing is Illusions, cards going into player decks. It can be really annoying, as when you draw these cards they’re dealt to you as encounter cards. Now, you do get to draw a card back, but I had this happen when Gwen ran out of deck, so she ended up with about 4 encounters to deal with! To some extent, it was lucky because she seems to be one of these heroes who wants to play during the Villain phase, but even so!

Marvel Champions

Miles Morales is a curious deck. I really liked his hero cards, and how they can work together to get some pretty impressive turns – especially using the Peter Parker ally card to ready him, which was very nice at times! He comes with a Justice deck that has a very defined SHIELD sub theme running through it. This is all well and good, but it doesn’t seem to fit with him and his deck, really. I have the feeling they included these cards because the campaign system is based around SHIELD upgrade cards, but who knows.

I do really enjoy playing the precon decks, but I have decided to change up the Miles deck as I found it just wasn’t working for me in the way I’d like. I’ve kept him as Justice, but have swapped out all of the SHIELD cards (which is pretty much everything else!) for an alternative build. I’ve since taken this new deck out for a spin alongside Captain Marvel, going up against Crossbones.

Marvel Champions

This game was actually a whole lot of fun, although Miles was actually defeated due to the Full Auto card dealing him precisely the amount of damage that he had left. Everything seemed to go wrong at this point, because while Captain Marvel was able to defeat the first villain stage, he brought out his Machine Gun as well as the next experimental weapon, and on his activation I had to somehow absorb 6 points of damage while she only had 6 hit points left. Fortunately, I had the Cosmic Flight card that could ignore three of those points of damage, so on her turn she was able to trigger first the Energy Channel upgrade, which dealt a full 10 damage to the villain, then she had a Photonic Blast to finish him off. In a way, it was fortunate that Miles was eliminated before the first stage was flipped, because he only had 14 hit points thanks to there being only one hero left!

Marvel Champions

Even though I hadn’t got to play with a lot of the deck, as a result, I did enjoy seeing the new Miles Morales – having cards like Concussive Blow and Clear the Area meant that I was actually doing things with the Justice cards in the deck, and Concussive Blow in particular led to some very good turns, as I was able to Confuse Crossbones with that one, then Captain Marvel played a Tackle to Stun him also, which meant when Miles played Arachnobatics, he was able to deal the full 8 damage as a result. I do think it still needs a bit of work doing to it, of course, but I’m much happier with the deck this time around than I had been earlier.

Marvel Champions

I’ve also finally picked up the Rogue precon, which gives me all of the X-Men to date and, for now I think, all of the hero packs that I want. There are still the four heroes from the Sinister Motives cycle that I have yet to add to the collection. While initially I hadn’t really fancied picking these up, I can see myself getting these before too long! I suppose it’s more for the cards, to allow for more deck building options, than for the heroes themselves.

At any rate, after getting Rogue, I’ve taken both her and Gambit out for a game against Ebon Maw from the Thanos campaign.

I have no real clue about Gambit as a hero, although I know he’s very popular in the fandom. I think this is possibly because I had come to X-Men through the Bryan Singer movies rather than the comics. Rogue, of course, I know about, given the fact she’s pretty front and centre in those films. In game terms, Gambit has a Justice deck and is, I believe, the first hero who can thwart while in alter-ego mode, thanks to his ability to remove threat by discarding cards from the top of the encounter deck. He has an effect with charge counters while in hero form, where he can get +1 to attacks for removing these counters. It can lead to some very punchy turns, and I think I was really enjoying how his deck was working until I had taken my eye off the ball and he ended up being eliminated!

Marvel Champions

Elimination proved to be a disturbing theme of these recent games!

Rogue comes with a Protection deck, and her main thing is around moving the Touched card around. It represents the fact Rogue can absorb the abilities of other mutants, so if this card goes on a villain, a minion, a hero or an ally, she gains different things like Retaliate 1, or Aerial. Her suite of cards is somewhat kitted for this as well, gaining additional bonuses depending on what she’s Touching. Once I kinda got the hang of that, I think the deck played pretty nicely, and I did find myself playing a lot of the aspect cards as well, which often doesn’t happen with some of these pre-con decks on the first outing.

Rogue was actually eliminated not long after Gambit as well, unfortunately, so that ended in a fiasco, but even so, it was an enjoyable game!

Tyranids! again


Well folks, after last week’s game with my Tyranids against JP and his Word Bearers, we’ve had a rematch where I have basically brought the same list, and he decided to change things up considerably. After seeing two squads of Havocs staring at me from across the board, I think I was just paralysed with terror and played quite badly for the first couple of turns, especially when I had my units of termagants and genestealers just scythed down in short order. Losing my Warlord in turn two was a significant blow as well, but after an initial feeling like I wanted to just give up, I decided to just try and see what happens, and was quite surprised.

I think this is something that is talked about a fair bit, when playing games and you think there’s no way you can claw something back, you just sort of give up and either don’t try, or just check out from the game and it becomes un-fun for everybody involved. When I lost that key piece, the warlord, I wasn’t really sure how I was going to come back, as he was providing a major source of synapse for the rest of the army. However, I was able to make a few things work, and it did seem to go in my favour as the game went along.


The tooled-up carnifex is quite the beast, equipped as he is with all manner of things that make him an absolute beast. Without command points, he isn’t quite as horrific, but he still hits like a brick, and was able to scythe through the Daemon Prince and the Dark Apostle with ease. The Venomcrawler put up a slight fight due to the fact JP had a stratagem that reduced all incoming damage to 0 once per battle, so my crushing claws doing 12 damage suddenly did nothing, but even so, I was able to kill it before anything too drastic happened. He was then able to charge across the field to take out a squad of Havocs and then a squad of Cultists, so he really was the MVP in that game!

The genestealers were a particular loss, I felt, as I was upset with not getting to use them as I had wanted. Well, I didn’t get to use them at all, unfortunately. That is the effects of having a shooty army vs a melee army. But regardless, through a combination of objective control and the Cranial Feasting objective, I was able to get a lot of victory points. When round 5 came around, I had reduced JP’s army to a single Havoc holding one objective on my turn, and it was 39-43 to me. We shook hands, then thought “let’s play out his turn, to see what would happen”, whereupon we realised that Havoc scored him 5 victory points without doing anything, for a Word Bearers win at 44-43! What an utter reversal!

We’ve agreed that lessons have been learnt, on both sides of the board, and I for one am already planning my next list, as I feel like changing it up a bit. Playing at 1000 points is a little hampering, although it is also good for both the size of the table we’re playing on, and for ensuring games don’t go on into the small hours of the morning. That said, given the points investment that I have made with some of my units, I don’t feel like I’m getting a lot back in terms of table control.

So I’m going to make some changes. 


Let’s start with some Hormagaunts. JP actually gave me a bunch of Tyranid nastiness back in 8th edition, although it was around the time my eldest was born, so I never really got to look at them until recently. Turns out, there are 18 Hormagaunts, alongside a bunch of Termagants, and some other gribbly bits. Taking the melee gaunts as a starting point, let’s do some math-hammer…

I like the Hive Tyrant, I really do. However, he’s a massive points sink for a 1000 point game, and he’s also a massive target. So let’s look at the Broodlord, instead. The Broodlord can improve the AP of a core unit within synaptic link range when that unit rolls a 6 to wound in melee. The Tyranid Prime can allow a core unit within synaptic link range to re-roll a wound roll of 1 when it makes an attack. The best supportive Warlord Trait for our purposes here is Direct Guidance, which allows the warlord to select a core unit within Synaptic Link range and grant them +1 to hit when they make an attack. So we’ll make the Broodlord the new Warlord, and keep the Prime in there for his ability.

A unit of 10 Hormagaunts with adrenal glands and toxin sacs costs 110 points, and will move 11”, will hit on 4s and will wound power armour on 4s thanks to the glands. The toxin sacs will make any 6s to hit auto-wound, which is very handy indeed. 

The Bounding Advance stratagem allows them to advance a flat 6” and they can still charge in a turn in which they advanced, all for 1CP. So they are moving up 17” in the move phase, and can still potentially move a further 12” during the charge phase. They have the Bounding Leap ability which allows them to pile-in an additional 3” as well, so once they’re in base contact, they can really swarm a prey unit. This works well with the Swarming Masses rule, which extends engagement range to 2.5”.

When in close combat, they have 3 attacks each and the Adrenal Surge stratagem gives them +1 attack for 1CP.

Synaptic Imperatives are the new thing for Tyranids, and give Synapse creatures additional benefits that are chosen at the start of the turn. The Broodlord allows an infantry unit within 6” to receive the benefits of light cover against an attack. Tyranid Warriors have possibly the best one for them, though, as 6s to hit in melee score one additional hit. With the amount of dice being thrown here, odds are there will be a few 6s coming out!

In terms of psychic support, there is Onslaught to allow them to advance and charge, which is fine if you don’t need that extra 6” and/or don’t have the CP to spend on Bounding Advance. There is also Paroxysm, which prevents a unit firing Overwatch, and that unit is -1 to wound when it fights back, which gives them some help if they’re going to be stuck in melee.

Once the combat is over, there is the Overrun stratagem for 1CP which allows a core unit to make a normal move after the fight phase, provided they are no longer engaged with an enemy. There is also Endless Swarm, which allows you to return D3+3 destroyed models to the unit in your command phase, to bring back the swarm to go through it all again.

I’ve been playing my Tyranids as Behemoth so far, even though they’re painted in the colours of Hive Fleet Gorgon. Behemoth, though, has got some very good utility for an aggressive bug build. To start with, they are all +1 strength on the charge. They get +1” move and can consolidate an additional 3” so they are quite vicious there. The psychic power grants a unit within Synaptic Link range +1 to wound in melee. So that group of 10 Hormagaunts is making 40 attacks at S5 and +1 to wound, with all the additional shenanigans going on. 

Gorgon makes any wound roll of 4+ a success, which is very nice to have, and can reroll one wound roll either to shoot or to fight. I really like the Gorgon psychic power, which allows unmodified 6s to wound to cause one mortal wound in addition to normal damage (to a max of 6 mortal wounds). Their unique stratagem improves toxin sacs to a 5+ auto-wound in melee.

Leviathan grants a decent camouflage for units by making it slightly more difficult to wound these models. They can re-roll one hit roll either in the fight or shooting phase, which is nice. However, I particularly like the Leviathan psychic power that allows two synaptic imperatives to be active for the army, which can be really useful. The Leviathan unique stratagem allows you to improve the AP for a melee attack for a unit, if there is another Leviathan unit also in the combat.

I think out of these three, I prefer Behemoth for the brutality of it all, although Leviathan certainly has its place!


This is all well and good, of course, but I’m fighting with the idea that actually, Genestealers might be a much better investment for all of these bits and pieces! Of course, a unit of 10 Genestealers will cost 160 points, so we’re already starting from behind, and adding in toxin sacs will bring that up to 190 points. However, the additional 80 points does buy you a more accurate, and more resilient, bug. They’re hitting on 3s and would wound normal marines on 4s without any kind of investment of command points or outside influences, plus they have the Vanguard Predator rule that allows you to set them up anywhere more than 9” away from enemy models or the enemy deployment zone.

Let’s take a look and see what can be brought over from all those buffs. The Broodlord’s aura will be very useful here, especially as he can also be set up the same as the Genestealers. The Warlord Trait of +1 to hit makes them effectively hitting on 2s, which is very useful. 

For 1CP, Vanguard Onslaught allows them to re-roll the wound roll if they charged or were charged. They also get access to the Overrun stratagem for 1CP, which lets them move normally if they finish the fight and have killed everybody. Now, their normal move is 8”, and they don’t have the myriad ways of increasing that like Hormagaunts, because you can’t give Genestealers adrenal glands.

However, when they’re in the fight, their claws and talons are S4, AP-3 and D1, with 4 attacks base meaning that is a lot of saving rolls to make for the opponent – if indeed, they get a save with that AP. Remember, the Broodlord can allow any 6s to wound to be AP-4 as well. If they gain the Tyranid Warrior synaptic imperative ability of 6s to hit causing one additional hit, that could be devastating when they’re hitting on 2s already from the Warlord Trait.

Obviously, Onslaught can allow them to advance and charge although, given how far up the field they could potentially start the game, that might not be necessary. Behemoth Genestealers will be hitting at S5 and with the psychic blessing, they’d be +1 to wound, so they’re still wounding marines on 3s but could very easily shred a unit of Cultists by wounding on 2s.

The more I’m looking at this, I think I like the idea of Hormagaunts and Genestealers working together, rather than trying to weigh up one or the other. So that’s that decision made, then. A Broodlord, a Tyranid Prime, a unit of Warriors, then the Hormagaunts and Genestealers. So I’m getting somewhere with the army now.

So with all that said, let’s take a look at the list!


The Broodlord should be a beast with all this going on. I had no idea until this week that subfaction-specific Psychic powers are known, in addition to the powers you select from a faction discipline. I know this is almost useless now because the psychic phase is going in 10th edition, but it has kinda blown my mind that it’s the case! The Broodlord can only cast one power though, so it’s not going to massively change the game. I’ve given him the Maw-Claws of Thyrax, which increase his attacks to 7, lets you re-roll the wound roll in melee, and whenever he defeats a unit in melee, he gets +1 attack until the end of the game (to a max of +3 attacks). I was toying with giving him the Resonance Barb for additional Psyker stuff, but it only allows him to know additional powers, he can’t cast additional powers unless I use the stratagem to allow that. However, 7 attacks hitting on 2s and wounding power armour on 3s with rerolls, he should be an absolute beast and I could definitely see him getting up to 8 or 9 attacks thanks to that relic. 

The Prime and the Warriors will all have some useful Synaptic Imperative abilities as we’ve discussed, so the big focus here is on sending up the Hormagaunts and Genestealers to cover the advance of the Carnifex, who will just wreck the place. Getting the Carnifex into melee is so satisfying, because he’s just so incredibly dangerous once he gets there. I think I often shy away from tooling up models like this – he has 65 points’ worth of weapons and upgrades, which is very much unlike me! But I think his recent performances have shown it is a definite investment. 

Hopefully, of course, I can make all of these plans work when the time comes, and it’ll all be just beautiful!

Sisters of Battle launch box – finally finished!

I finally did it! After its launch in November 2019, I’ve finally finished painting all of the models within. You might think, 3 and a half years, to paint 25 models? Well yes, I am slow, but we’ve been through quite a few colour changes to get here!

I’m quite pleased with the results, anyway – so much so, that I set up that mini diorama above!

The Battle Sisters are some of the best models GW has produced, I feel, and now that I’ve found my colour scheme, I’m really enjoying getting the full army painted. After finishing the Arco Flagellants from the launch box to call the whole thing finished, I’m now ready to launch myself into the 500 points challenge that I talked about the other day. I think I’m going to begin with the Novitiates, because they’re intriguing me as regards the challenges that will come from having to find a different-but-similar scheme for them.

Oh, but wait, there’s more!

The awesome Exorcist is now finished, as well! It’s such a bonkers model, I just love it so much. Very much looking forward to getting all these to the table at some point, though for now, I’m still enjoying playing the Tyranids…

Rebel Dawn

The final book in the Han Solo trilogy begins with one of those seminal events that we all knew would be coming in this series. Much like Han had to rescue Chewbacca from slavery, he also had to win the Millennium Falcon from his friend Lando Calrissian. So we open the third book with the sabacc tournament at Cloud City, where the large tournament gradually sees just Han and Lando left, and despite a pretty good bluff, Han is able to win the game with a Pure Sabacc and claims the Falcon as his prize when Lando is forced to use a marker after running out of credits. He immediately begins to work on it, and he and his casual girlfriend Salla Zend engage in races to see who can deliver their cargo the fastest. Unfortunately, Salla comes into trouble and Han is forced to rescue her, after which her attitude towards him changes, and she starts to plan their wedding, despite the fact Han isn’t interested in settling down.

To escape, Han travels to the Corporate Sector, and is absent for a good chunk of the book while Brian Daley’s Han Solo novels take place. Instead, we catch up with Bria Tharen, who was actually present at the Cloud City tournament, using the gambling as a cover to meet with other Rebel groups to try to forge an alliance between them. En route to Nal Hutta for an audience with Jiliac and Jabba, she is nearly captured by Boba Fett, who is following a priority bounty on her head placed there by the Besadii Hutt crime family. However, Lando is able to rescue her with the help of the pirate queen Drea Renthal, who had unexpectedly pulled from hyperspace the cruise ship they were travelling on, intent on robbing the passengers.

Durga’s attempts to discover who had poisoned his parent Aruk the Hutt eventually lead him into bed with Black Sun, manoeuvred there by the Falleen Prince Xizor, who has wanted to gain a hold in Hutt Space and agrees to help Durga in exchange for a cut of the profits from Ylesia. Despite at first trying to remain independent, Durga eventually gains the proof to place a bounty on Teroenza and challenge Jiliac to single combat, during which he is eventually able to kill the Desilijic leader. Jabba, after killing Jiliac’s newborn child, is thereafter the leader of Desilijic, and agrees to bankroll Bria Tharen’s proposed offensive to destroy the spice factories on Ylesia.

Bria, after a discussion with Lando, finally reunites with Han in an effort to recruit smugglers to help with the assault, and at first Han wants nothing to do with her. However, he eventually comes round, and the two rekindle their romance from ten years before. Bria is privately convinced that Han will follow her into the resistance, while Han believes Bria will leave the rebellion and maybe they can re-locate to the Corporate Sector.

The Ylesian offensive goes off as expected, and even the arrival of Boba Fett doesn’t stop Bria and Han from clearing out Teroenza’s treasure, as the bounty hunter is only there for the high priest’s horn. Bria has received orders the rebels need every credit they can get, so she basically double-crosses the smugglers, and they take all of the spice, as well as rescuing all of the slaves. Han is left with a box of Teroenza’s treasure, and the rest of his friends having the impression that Han was in on the double-cross all along. 

When Han resumes his smuggling activities for Jabba, he is almost boarded by an Imperial customs patrol, and is forced to jettison the spice he was carrying. Evading the patrol made him fly dangerously close to the Maw black hole clusters, and the way space-time was warped effectively meant he shortened his distance, making the run in just under 12 parsecs. However, Jabba is not pleased, and demands either his spice or the value in credits. When Han approaches Lando for a loan, the gambler punches him in the face and tells him to stay away after double-crossing him. Desperate, Han and Chewie take on a charter to fly two people and two droids from Mos Eisley to Alderaan…

The final book definitely packs a lot of action into its almost-400 pages. Well, the whole trilogy actually has a lot going on, but it seems my synopsis of this one is so much longer than I had done for either of the others! I talked about this before, of course, but the story of Han’s earlier life had been doled out piecemeal for a number of years, through a variety of media, and the trilogy was always, to some extent, going to have that element of ticking off the boxes of things we know had to happen. Han had to win the Falcon from Lando, and it’s nice that we get to have a bit of the rules of sabacc explained along the way. I think it was this trilogy and the Jedi Academy trilogy that gave us our basic rules, with the West End Games supplement Crisis on Cloud City actually coming with a sabacc mini-game (complete with cards!) – I should probably talk about that book at some point, because it’s really pretty good!

We also have to explain why Han is so frosty towards both Leia and the Rebels, so we get Bria Tharen and her double-cross. Bria actually dies towards the end of the book, as her Red Hand Squadron beam the plans to the Death Star from an Imperial comms station to a blockade runner waiting in orbit, which of course was reworked for the movie Rogue One. But it’s nice to see the end of her story, as well. Yes, of course, she is a huge Mary Sue character, with sometimes awfully cliché descriptions (“exquisite bone structure” and “lovely mouth” always make me chuckle). But when you take it at face value, and try not to analyse the story too much, it’s actually a neat little parcel that Crispin delivers here.

Furthermore, we also get to learn what Chewie meant when Han was forced to stop over at Cloud City for repairs. The double-cross was perhaps not strong enough, in my view, as the way Lando had been written up to this point, being best buddies with Han and all, I think he would have actually listened to Han’s side of the story. I feel like something more should have happened to Lando. Han should have left him high and dry or something, it doesn’t feel like it was enough, somehow. And finally, of course, how did the Millennium Falcon make the Kessel Run in under 12 parsecs, when a parsec is a unit of measurement, and not a unit of time? Well, it might not be the best explanation, but it’ll do!

The ending did feel a tiny bit rushed, somehow. It’s where that Run takes place, and I think there was perhaps a need to wrap everything up neatly that overrode things here. The way Han talks about it, it sounds like it should be a famous feat in the Outer Rim, but he made that Run at most a couple of days before he starts to boast, which doesn’t seem right really, but I suppose I’m just nitpicking on that point.

The problem, I suppose, is that the ending is a little bit too neat, for a trilogy that has, overall, been a little too neat as well. On reflection, Han’s life up until the time he sits down in that cantina booth has been pretty smooth sailing, and fairly uncomplicated. Whether that’s a stylistic choice or just bad writing, who knows. However, there is a part of me that thinks he had it a bit too easy, just walking into a life with the smugglers on Nar Shaddaa and becoming one of the gang, and more, very easily and very quickly. There’s very little in the way of working his way up to any kind of notoriety, which I think would perhaps have worked if he’s made that Kessel Run in the middle book.

Rebel Dawn is perhaps most notable for the fact that Han disappears from his own trilogy for about a third of the story, due to the fact Crispin had to incorporate the earlier Brian Daley novels. These novels came out in 1979/80 and are very much just throwaway adventures that were written just to give Star Wars fans more of their favourite stuff, similar to the (dreadful) Lando Calrissian Adventures. With Luke, Leia, Vader and co all off-limits, Han and (especially) Lando were easy fodder for more stories set before the movies, so we have these weird and wonderful sci-fi stories about their escapades. In order to try to pull as many threads from across the old EU as possible, Crispin therefore had to plot her story so that Han disappears, but isn’t entirely absent. There are some Interludes which almost act as a postlude to each book in the Daley trilogy, and this decision is pretty divisive among fans. Some folks hate the book for it, but others like me actually appreciate the fact that it all works out pretty smoothly. The reason for Han’s departure is sound, after all, and I think it works better than ending the Hutt Gambit with a sort of “I’m off to do Corporate Sector stuff!” scene, then beginning Rebel Dawn with his glorious return. It also helps to tie in with the Salla Zend that we know from Dark Empire.

The book also gives us more Hutt action than perhaps any other expanded universe story, and I love it for that. We get to follow the machinations of Jabba, Jiliac and Durga, and we learn a lot about Hutt society and business as a result. These parts of the story are almost more interesting than the rest, I have to say! I love the Fringe in Star Wars, so I suppose it was inevitably going to be among my favourite parts of the story.

All in all, the trilogy is enjoyable. It fits in with the fact that Star Wars is a space fantasy / fairy tale, and the life of Han Solo being as convenient as it is, it still makes for a fun read. Sure, there’s a part of me that wished some things could have been tweaked to make it seem a touch more believable, but I suppose that’s not the point. We want to see Han Solo the dashing rogue, the space pirate who makes the right call and so on. We need tales of derring-do and so on, and this – like most of the other Bantam novels – hits the mark. 

Ylesia makes a return appearance later on in the New Jedi Order, in a short story to do with the Peace Brigade that I’ve never actually read, so I’m looking forward to my eventual re-read of that series so I can actually see what goes on there. In the meantime, I’m planning to sprinkle a few more of these Bantam classics into my reading schedule, I think I’m going to move on to Shadows of the Empire next…

Elder Sign: Unseen Forces

Last week, I decided to right some wrongs 🤓

Remember about twelve months ago, I talked about wanting to play more board games, and even had the buy-in from my wife for joining this endeavour with a semi-regular games night suggested? I was very much fired up to get round to exploring the whole Elder Sign collection, and then promptly did next to nothing to make that happen!

Well, that’s not quite true. We played Elder Sign twice, then promptly moved on.


Slightly longer than twelve months on, I’m finally getting round to making this happen. I had a game with the first expansion, Unseen Forces, which was actually pretty good, I must say! I’ve already written up a proper game-day review of the expansion, which you can read here, but suffice it to say, this expansion has got a lot to offer for anyone who enjoys the base game.

Pretty much every expansion in the game line following this one changes the mechanics wildly, moving us out of the Museum and adding additional layers of complexity. Unseen Forces, then, is almost a “pure” expansion in that it gives us more of what we enjoyed the first time around. Of course, there are new mechanics, such as the Blessed/Cursed thing that is a part of so many Arkham Files games, as well as tweaks to the mythos deck, and so on. But there’s a big part of me that really appreciates these sorts of expansions, so I always feel the need to fly that flag!

At any rate, I’ve now chalked up a game with Unseen Forces, so up next will be Gates of Arkham, the first of the expansions to break the mould. I have only played that twice, and Omens of Ice has only seen a single game, with none of the others having had a look in. I’m excited to see what everything has to offer, at any rate, as I am to see what I’ve been missing all these years!!