A little night Magic… (part two)

Hey everybody,
Following on from my last Magic catch-up earlier in the week, it’s time to finish up my look at what I’ve missed from the last couple of years. I left things at Jumpstart, which was released last summer – which was followed by Double Masters, which looks like a phenomenal set for reprints, seeing a lot of expensive cards being reprinted almost like the intent was to simply increase supply. Classic Commanders like Kaalia, Sen Triplets and Riku, as well as more recent stuff like Atraxa and Breya. Jace the Mind Sculptor also reappears, alongside the Swords, and the Filter Lands from Shadowmoor/Eventide.

This was followed by Zendikar Rising, a Return to Return to Zendikar set. This is a set of adventure and exploration, apparently, and returns specifically to the feel of the original Zendikar block, without the Eldrazi. As far as story goes though, we’re in the post-BFZ era, where the plane has been ravaged by the titans. There’s a lot going on here, so let’s get into it!

Zendikar Rising is the first set to see Set Boosters, which are different to Draft Boosters in that they’re not designed, well, for Draft. Instead, you get a different distribution of card rarity, and we have the introduction of something called The List, 300 cards from the game’s past which are not Standard legal, but offer a chance to get reprints (though at random).

In terms of set mechanics, there is a new Party theme which grants boons based on the creature types you have in play. Modal Double-Face Cards are a new type of double faced card that players can decide which face to cast (they don’t transform). These cards eventually proved to be the theme among the sets of the Magic “year” (it seems they’re not calling them Blocks anymore).

I adore Zendikar, the art is some of the best in the game, and I went through a phase of buying as much of the lands from that block that I could, which I’m quite pleased about. I’m also a fan of the Party idea, as I like the idea of assembling a proper type of Fellowship for my games. I think this is definitely a set that I need to look into soon!

Commander Legends is a draftable Commander set, which I just don’t understand how that’s supposed to work. There are 165 new cards, and almost 200 reprints. Drafting a Commander deck just seems odd – you’re drafting a 60 card deck, picking two cards at a time. You still have the colour identity stuff, though it is no longer a single-card deck. Weird. I don’t quite get it – though it is always handy to have Commander cards in circulation.

Commander meets Draft. Weird.

The next set is Kaldheim, which brings us to February of 2021. We’re getting there, folks! Kaldheim is Magic’s take on Vikings, and it kinda works. Much like Theros and Amonkhet, we get some fairly decent God cards which is always nice. Kaya is front and centre of the packaging, which is perhaps a reflection on WotC’s attempts to compensate following the Black Lives Matter movement in 2020 (remember, they decided cards like Cleanse and Crusade were “culturally offensive” because they destroy black creatures and pump white creatures, respectively). Kaya is a fairly badass character in her own right though, and being a big fan of Black and White as a colour combination, I’ve appreciated her as the BW planeswalker since she first arrived in Conspiracy 2. Her role in the cinematic trailer makes it clear, in case there was any doubt, that she is amazing, anyway.

I’m getting too political here, let’s rein it in!

Kaldheim is somewhat tribal themed, with Giants and Dwarves, Angels (Valkyries) and Elves showing up. There is a huge development on Snow as a theme, moving on from 2006’s Coldsnap to have Snow on instants and sorceries as well as creatures (and of course, lands). I’m a big sucker for this, anyway – snow and fantasy games always reminds me of Runebound, one of my all-time favourite board games!

In addition to more modal double-face cards, and the second return of Sagas (again, something I like!) we have two new mechanics: Boast and Foretell. Foretell is a bit like Morph, which allows you to exile a card for 2 generic mana, and later play it for its Foretell cost. Boast is an ability that can only be used if the creature with said ability attacked that turn. All very interesting stuff, for sure.

I’ve really been sucked into the whole Kaldheim thing, and have actually been buying cards again – specifically for this set. I’ve been buying boosters and stuff, including Set boosters as well as Draft boosters, and have begun the process of creating a BW Angels deck. There’s a lot more to be said on this topic, so stay tuned for a blog coming on this, soon!

Something very strange has been happening with Magic though. They’ve announced that there will be sets released with themes from outside of Magic as we know it – called Universes Beyond – and they’ve released in paper Time Spiral Remastered, a single set that distills the essence of the original Time Spiral. Why? Who knows. Weird.

The first Universes Beyond set is coming sometime next month, and is set in the Forgotten Realms. I’m actually quite excited to see Drizzt on a Magic card…

The most recent set to release is Strixhaven: School of Mages, which came out in April and seems to be Magic’s take on Harry Potter. Well, not exactly, though it is described as “the magic school genre” – so that’s clearly a thing! The set is an enemy-coloured theme, spells matter theme delight – I think I’ve read somewhere that it’s the first set specifically devoted to enemy colour pairs since Apocalypse in 2001. Anyway, Strixhaven is a magical school that attracts only the best and the brightest. Among these are Will and Rowan Kenrith once more, who are really establishing themselves now in the lore of the multiverse.

Modal double-face cards are once again here, tying all of the sets of the “year” together, and we have a focus on instants and spells. Magecraft is a new ability word that triggers when casting instant and sorcery spells, and there is a new keyword that ties into the theme of the set, Learn. The keyword lets you either discard a card and draw a card, or to reveal a Lesson card from outside the game and add it to your hand. Lessons are a subtype of instants and sorceries that allow you to focus on a specific type of gameplay, their biggest thing being that you can “fetch” them with Learn cards. Seems a little one-shot-wonder to be of any real impact, but who knows? Maybe we’ll get more to support this type of thing in years to come.

Confession time: I’ve also been buying some Strixhaven cards. I’m a sucker for BW right now, and have been plotting another deck around the Silverquill college. There are five colleges in Strixhaven, each named after the Elder Dragon that founded it. Nothing to do with Harry Potter, whatsoever. Anyway – stay tuned for more on this deck, once I’ve figured out just what I’m trying to do with it!

Strixhaven brings us to the end of this two-part run-through the recent years of Magic sets! After the D&D set (in a similar move, Strixhaven is an upcoming sourcebook for the RPG, I believe), we’re going back to Innistrad once more, though I don’t know anything about that other than the set names appear to have been announced. I think I’ve got my work cut out for me in getting to grips with Valkyries and Ink-mages though, so I’m gonna leave it there for now!

Hopefully the challenges that parenthood has in store won’t interfere too much with me getting some more blogs written in the near future, so do check in soon when I hope to waffle on about my new favourite colour pairing of white and black in the most recent MTG sets!

A little night Magic… (part one)

Hey everybody!
It’s been a while since I’ve talked about cardboard crack on this blog, but following on from my discovery of some cards in the attic, which I mentioned very briefly in my May update, I thought I’d do a little bit of investigation into what I’ve missed in the few years since I last cracked a pack. What else am I going to do with my paternity leave, right?!

So let’s just remember that the last set that I was anything like present for was War of the Spark, which released in May 2019. Oh wow, so since I last shuffled up a deck of cards, I’ve had two children… wow! Since that time, I count six full sets have been released, the most recent of which is Strixhaven. But I’ll get to that later.

2019 saw a new core set, M20, the second of the new core sets to be released since they had been abandoned after Magic Origins back in the day. The core set was roughly based around Chandra Nalaar, although there doesn’t seem to have been much in the way of actual story for the set. Fair enough – it’s a core set, after all. Gimme the reprints I need!

After M20, the next set was Throne of Eldraine, which I do remember coming out as being something of a fairy tale set. Apparently it’s a top-down design based on Grimm’s tales and Arthurian legend. Sounds interesting! The storyline seems to be based around a conflict between the Knights and the Wild Peoples, with Garruk turning up to kidnap the resident king, but his kids manage to rescue him and ignite their sparks. The kids are Will and Rowan Kenrith, who I seem to recall came as partners in the Battlebond set.

There is a new card type in the set, called Adventures, which are spells stuck onto creatures. The video above shows how they work, but honestly, I just don’t get it. It’s not really like there’s a link between the two aspects on the card – the Adventure portion doesn’t seem to make the creature you can cast any bigger or anything, it’s like they had too many cards they wanted to fit in, so stuck 30 of them onto creatures and made up this weird thing.

Otherwise, Eldraine seems like an interesting enough set, and maybe I’ll look into that some more at a later date…

Moving on!

2019 also saw something called Secret Lair, which appears to be a very expensive booster game where you can get older cards reprinted. I’ve heard some pretty negative stuff about this whole thing, though, so suffice it to say I won’t be looking into these things.

Moving into 2020 now, the first set of the year was Theros: Beyond Death. A return to Theros, how delightful! The set is mainly focused on the Underworld of the plane, however, which the above trailer seems to show really well. Elspeth isn’t dead, or maybe she is but she’s beyond death now (eh? eh!) and we’ve also got Ashiok running around, one of my all-time favourite pieces of creepy-weird art from the game. There’s also a new Theros god, Klothys the god of destiny (in red/green, weird). We’ve got mono-coloured gods, the original five returning, plus five demigods, who I’m pretty sure we’ve seen previously as dual-coloured creatures. These demigod cards are more like their prequel versions? I don’t know.

The big news, to me, is that the set uses Sagas once more, the legendary enchantment type introduced back in Dominaria. Nice!

Despite COVID breaking out, we still had set releases almost as normal. Ikoria, Lair of Behemoths was next up, and is a set that I’ve previously mentioned as sounding interesting to me. It features the Tarkir wedges once more, and we have some pretty crazy-huge creatures (well, it is the land of behemoths!) The set is one of those for which I’d picked up some cards somehow without really realising! So I think I need to get in on this and see what it was all about!

This set is all about massive monsters, with a vaguely kaiju air to it. Narset is back as a planeswalker, by the way, in her original Jeskai colours as opposed to the blue/white of her last Tarkir incarnation. One of the big themes of the set is Mutate, a kind of “build your own monster”. Cards with this keyword can be cast for their Mutate cost, where they are attached to a non-Human creature, either above or below that target, and the two (or more!) creatures become one – that is, they’re considered to be the creature on top (for CMC and power/toughness) but with the abilities of all the other creatures below it. Interestingly, if the creature is flickered, then it comes back to the battlefield as individual cards.

There’s also the neat little keyword Companion, which is featured on some cards and instructs a deckbuilding limitation (such as all cards need to be a certain CMC or something), but allows you to include that card in your sideboard and then cast it – almost like a mini version of Commander. Originally, there were no particular rules around this, but later it was revised to cost 3 generic mana to cast your chosen Companion.

Having at least some of these cards has made me excited to start thinking about building decks with something of an Ikoria theme, so we’ll have to see if parenting duties will allow for that to happen!

We got the summer core set, M21, as well as a supplemental product called Jumpstart. This has been fascinating me since I’ve now taken the time to actually look into it and see what I’ve been missing. A massive set of over 500 cards, most of which are either reprints from the history of the game, or else ported over from M21, with just shy of 80 actual new cards. It’s not just new cards, but a new way to play – the boosters have 20 cards in them, and the idea is that you buy two, shuffle them together, and you play! The packs all have basic lands in them, but it’s kind of a case of just throwing together two random packs and hoping for the best, as there’s no way to plan a deck because of the random nature. It’s really quite fascinating, I have to say!

A MTG version of Smash Up? Interesting. It’s been a while, obviously, since I’ve seen a video with the Professor, but I feel as though any MTG product that he speaks well of must actually be worth looking into!

This blog seems to be running long, so I’m going to close up for now. I’m going to continue to catch myself up with the game that I’ve missed later this week, so stay tuned for more!

The Changing Mythos

Well, folks, it’s perhaps the big news we’ve all been waiting / hoping for – the release model for Arkham Horror LCG is changing! And it’s quite the dramatic shift, really!

The next expansion has been announced, and we are indeed going to Antarctica – and it even looks like we will indeed be going to the Mountains of Madness. Elder Things, ahoy! I was really coming around to the idea of an Alaska-themed Ithaqua expansion, but this is just as good!

But this isn’t the important bit.

For years now, Living Card Games from FFG have followed the schedule of a big deluxe expansion, and a cycle of six smaller packs, for the co-operative games both products had a mix of player and scenario cards. Now, though, this mix is being divided in two, and the whole scheme is being schmushed together, so that we have an entire cycle’s worth (more or less) of content, split across two boxes.

I guess this means that we’ll see just one expansion each year, though it’s such early days who knows what else we might have in store as time goes on?

The benefits here seem to be that the player cards are dropped in one hit, so you have an almost instant collection to build decks from, to plan decks from, etc. The scenario box also means that individual scenarios can be much longer, and the interplay between them can, presumably, be much tighter. I mean, who’s to say we’ll still get eight individual quests to play? We might only have five, but they’re that much more diverse because they aren’t bound by the constraints of fitting into a mythos pack.

In the middle of all this new stuff, it’s nice to know that we’re still getting new investigators, and they’re still drawing from the classic Arkham stable. Lily Chen is a fan favourite that I know has been on many players’ minds for some time. We have also seen Norman Withers, so we’re not going too far off piste just yet. Daniela Reyes can also be seen on the cover of the box, though I’m not sure who the other two are.

Overall, a very exciting game development, making it feel much less like a living card game of old, and much more like a boxed card game with a big box expansion; which I guess the co-op LCGs were all along. It’s only now that we’re seeing them this way!

May retrospective

Hey everybody,
Well this has soon come round again, hasn’t it? Doesn’t seem like five minutes since the last retrospective blog, does it now?! I’ve not actually been posting all that much on here throughout May, unfortunately, and I doubt that June will be very busy at all, given that we’re eagerly awaiting the birth of baby number two, but I hope that I’ll be able to do something. At any rate – it’s not the time to look forward right now, it’s time to look back!

May has seen the temporary culmination of my Ossiarch Bonereapers army, with three heroes joining the ranks of the rest of the models that I’ve painted up for the army. Arch-Kavalos Zandtos, Vokmortian, and the Mortisan Soulreaper have been a nice way to finish things off, I think!

I’ve got somewhere in the realm of 1400 points painted up now, which is very exciting, though I do think I need to get more basic troops done before I can call this army done. I’m hoping that the new edition of Age of Sigmar will bring us some more models, as I’d really like to get a unit of those archers, if nothing else!

So the start of the month was almost consumed with Age of Sigmar and getting the Bonereapers into shape. I’ve also got some more games of Warhammer Underworlds in, which has been really nice, including with the original Shadespire set.

It’s been really nice getting to play the game, and I’m hoping that I can pick up some of the Direchasm expansions when the world returns to normal and they’re actually available to buy again… fingers crossed!

It’s not all about the Mortal Realms, though, as I’ve also made a return to the grim darkness of the far future. Specifically, with the Sisters!

Sisters of Battle

It’s been far too long, of course, but I’m really glad to have finally made an effort with these ladies. I’ve gone for a custom scheme, though intend to play them as Order of the Sacred Rose – I’ve written at length on my plans for the army, here and here, so please do check those blogs out!

I very nearly had a game of 40k the other week, though my buddy JP had a drunken night and figuring out the rules for a system we’ve barely played was not to be! I’ve got a game of Necromunda lined up with James next weekend, which should be good because I’ve only ever played it solo up to now! So gaming is slowly coming back on the radar, even if it will be curtailed while I look after a newborn again!


Jemma and I have started to watch the MCU again, working our way through Phase One during May. There’s probably a lot more to talk about with these things, although at the same time I feel like there isn’t really a great deal that I can add that has already been said. Two Iron Man films, Thor, Captain America, and the Avengers movie. I do find origin films to get a bit same-y after a while, and this is very true of the MCU, where you get to feel like they’re just giving us yet another superhero who comes into his or her power (actually, I guess they’re just male) and fights the bad guys, gets beaten down, comes back stronger and saves the day.

There is a definite élan to the first Iron Man, which updates the action from Communist China to Afghanistan during the War on Terror superbly well. Indeed, that’s one of the great things we see during the series as a whole, the way that they’re updated and made relevant, almost. For sure, they all exist as pure escapism, and they’re all just great adventures that you can sit back and bask in the effects without needing to really think. But I do find it quite fun to watch the development of Iron Man, the one that started it all.

The Avengers is also an amazing film for the fact it managed to pull together so many A-list stars and not feel like it favoured one too heavily. It was nice that we’d been having hints and shadows of SHIELD since the very beginning, but that film very definitely exists in a SHIELD world. It’s almost ten years old, and I still can’t quite believe they managed to pull it off!

Phase One has got some great stuff in there, though. I think it’s possibly because of the fact that they’re starting off, and so all the big names are being established. Things are definitely getting more niche in some of the post-Infinity Saga stuff that we’re hearing about! There’s a lot to enjoy in this first act, I found myself in particular enjoying Captain America more than I remember, and Jemma was appreciative of Thor as a sort of classic fantasy movie merged with the conspiracy-theory stuff based here on Earth. Things definitely began to get unwieldy after this, although I do think Phase Two managed to keep a fairly decent lid on things until it all seemed to go nuts in Phase Three. But that’ll be for another blog!


Now then. I was up in the attic recently, trying to choose my next book, and I came across a stack of unsorted Magic cards, which seem to have been my last purchase from maybe 12-18 months ago? Feels like it might be longer, though I’m not 100% sure. Anyway, it brought back a lot of memories, and I have been doing a bit of tinkering with some things, in the hope that – as I said before – real-life gaming may well be on the cards once again.

They’re mostly from Ikoria, though some M20 in there as well. I need to get to grips with what I’ve missed since I was last interested in all this stuff. Was it War of the Spark, last time I paid attention? Can’t remember… It’s been a long time, anyway, though seeing these things, and flicking through them, and even the smell – it’s all triggering those fond memories, and it’s got me wanting to build decks again! Let’s hope that it won’t all be for nothing, though…

I think it’s a pretty safe bet that you can expect to see some more Magic blogs here, as I attempt to catch up with what I’ve missed!

March retrospective

Hey everybody!
I’m really enjoying these end-of-the-month round-ups that I’ve been putting out so far, hopefully they’ve been interesting to read, too!

I want to start off with talking about WandaVision, which I have finished and which I enjoyed immensely! From such a weird start, the show progressed incredibly well, with such a wonderful pacing as the mystery unfolds. In particular, I love the fact that we get so many quiet moments in this show, which is fundamentally about family life (albeit the ideal family life that Wanda wants). These kind of glimpses into character are of the sort that we’d never see on the big screen. Marvel have stated that the TV shows that they have on the books are intended to cover those characters who will very likely never get their own film; however, given the incredibe storytelling we’ve seen here, it makes me wonder if that will hold true, or whether they’ll instead branch out into further shows that explore the bigger movie characters in time.

It was a really great show, with an explosive finale that I for one really appreciated for actually staying true to the hints and suggestions of what exactly West View was all about. I think almost from the start it’s been fairly clear that this has all been Wanda’s creation, borne of her despair from losing Vision during the events of the Infinity War.

I do like the fact that we finally get to see Wanda embracing her comic book heritage with the costume and the name Scarlet Witch bestowed. In the tradition of Marvel movies, we get a mid-credits scene that shows Wanda in her astral form learning more about her powers, which indicates great things in store for her appearance in the upcoming Doctor Strange movie.

I haven’t just been stuck in front of the TV, though!

I’ve been able to play quite a few games this month, which has been incredible given the lack of much gaming so far this year! After a very false start with The Circle Undone, I have finally been able to play through the whole cycle now – and what a great run it was! You can check up my write-ups on the games here, here and here. I’ve also started on a much looser idea for a “campaign”, starting with playing Return to Night of the Zealot. My idea here is to play some of the standalone scenarios like Curse of the Rougarou and Murder at the Excelsior Hotel. Of course, I need to create a new investigator deck now, but I think it could be fun – and it’ll be nice to see what I’ve been missing all these years!

In addition to Arkham Horror LCG, I’ve played two games of Warcry! Still playing against myself, sadly, because we’re unable to meet up with friends indoors for the time being, but it’s been a decent way to get to grips with the game, and I’ve played these types of things solo before, controlling both sides of the board and making the best decisions for each, but having the one side that I wanted to actually win.

I’ve had two games with the Cypher Lords, and I do enjoy the way that they play. The first game, I was playing against them, and it was the sort of game that came right down to the wire before they were defeated by the Bloodbound, my warband of choice at that game – the Wrathmaster, with one wound remaining, rolled three critical hits to thoroughly beat the Thrallmaster into a pulp. The second game, playing as the Cypher Lords, I was completely outclassed by the Unmade and the Thrallmaster was again soundly decimated by the Blissful One attacking back to back. Absolutely incredible stuff, I have to say! I definitely need to crack on with painting the terrain for this game, though I have had a hard time deciding on a scheme.

I also want to crack on with getting the Catacombs box built up and investigated…

Following on from my March Plans blog, I’ve now at least built up both the Shardspeaker and the Psychomancer – what an incredible pair of models! The Psychomancer in particular has greatly impressed me, as soon as I get some more Chaos Black spray, I’m sure I’ll be starting work on these.

I’ve been building up some more Ossiarch Bonereapers models, and have made quite a bit of progress here – I’ll be getting another army update blog posted up at some point over the Easter weekend, anyway, so stay tuned for that!

As well as the miniatures side of the hobby, I’ve also been reading more novels set in the war-torn hellscape of the far future. After putting it off for years, I’ve read Fallen Angels, which ended up a much better read than I’d been expecting. I’ve also finished the Ravenor trilogy with Ravenor Rogue, which sadly did not really live up to the rest of the trilogy! Never mind. I’m trying to get back into the Horus Heresy, after Fallen Angels – I’ve started to read the beast that is Vengeful Spirit, and I hope to move through the series a bit more this year, though I have said that a lot with these books, and only read one a year for quite some time now!

I’ve also read the second Darth Bane novel, Rule of Two, which was better than the first one, though I still don’t honestly see what so many people see in this series. The book helped me to see the whole Sith Academy thing in a different light – it was one of my major bugbears about Path of Destruction, as you may recall, the ridiculous idea of having a school for essentially evil kids, but here we have Bane draw attention to the fact that this was one of Lord Kaan’s great failures.

The book is definitely more an exploration of Zannah’s journey this time, although the middle of the book jumps ten years so we don’t have to go through years of her learning how to use the Dark Side. Instead, we have her going on missions for Bane where she is essentially working to topple the Republic by using radical groups on Serenno, the homeworld of Count Dooku. We even have a Chancellor Valorum that makes an appearance, which all just serves to heighten the links to the Prequel era as opposed to work in any real temporal distance. I’ve said it before, of course, but the book is set 1000 years before A New Hope, but it feels like it’s merely a year or two before The Phantom Menace.

At any rate, while Zannah is working to topple the Republic, Bane is trying to figure out how to make a holocron, which seems to take him the course of the book and he still doesn’t figure it out. I’m not properly up on holocron lore, but there does seem to be some conflicting accounts of how prevalent they are in the galaxy. Coupled with this, while raiding Freedon Nadd’s tomb on Dxun, Bane gets covered with weird crustaceans called orbalisks, which render him pretty impervious to any attack (we saw this in the short story Bane of the Sith, of course). However, during the climax on Tython, he is almost killed by the creatures when his Sith lightning is turned back on himself. Zannah manages to save his life, though does tell him that she will kill him when she has no further use for him.

Somewhere in there, there is a really good story. I’m just not struck on Drew Karpyshyn’s style. It feels very simplistic, and a little too much like bad fan fiction at times. Zannah is described as just gorgeous and so on, much like Githany in the last book. It all just feels a bit non-Star Wars-y. Just not really my cup of blue milk, as they say! The actual storytelling, and the temporal feel aside, I think it’s a definite step-up since the earlier book, and I am somewhat looking forward to finishing the trilogy soon.

Hobby Goals 2021 – quarter one check-in!
So we’re three months into the year now, and I think it’s a good time for a check-in as regards my 2021 hobby goals! To start with, I wanted to get the Sisters army underway, but up to this point I haven’t actually done anything with these models. At one point, I actually considered moving away from them, as it happens. However, whenever I think about them for any length of time, it’s a project that  really feel excited for, and I want to get it off the ground. I’m not sure if I should try to pare down my goals here though, and think about getting just a couple of units done. Doing this might get me into the swing of things though, and perhaps I might yet get that 500-point list painted up after all! I guess we’ll see. But Sisters definitely remain on the menu for now!

I also haven’t done anything more with my Drukhari since the Incubi back in January. I have plans for the Grotesques here, for sure, and I think I’ll take stock of the situation again once I’ve got those guys finished up!

The Codex is now out of course, though I’ve not picked it up yet… I should try harder!

Working on my Imperium forces now, I’m not sure about the Blood Angels, or the Deathwatch, but I have already thinned-out some of the AdMech models that I’d not quite gotten round to painting yet, thinking I might keep a small force of them just to have some fun with. They are just lovely models, after all. I think the Tempestus Scions might be for the chop, though – I just don’t know where I’m going with the army, and it’s been that way for so long, I think it might just be time to call it a day and focus myself elsewhere.

I still haven’t done anything with Tyranids yet, either, and the Genestealer Cults are a force similar to the Sisters in that I’ve thought maybe they could be something to move away from. Whenever I think about them, at all, I just feel the need to paint up some more Neophytes, or something. I definitely want to have a Genestealer Cult force, so I really need to plot that out.

All in all, then, it’s really not been a very productive quarter, when compared with my hobby goals! However, I’ve produced quite a lot of minis for my new Ossiarch Bonereapers army, which is quite something to be pleased about. I’ve been able to get some more Necrons done, and the Incubi as mentioned before. Things are definitely going well, I think, so it’s nothing to worry about just yet! Maybe at the halfway point there will be a bit more ticked off from here, anyway!

Return to Night of the Zealot

Hey everybody,
Today is game day, and it’s time to return to the one that started it all – it’s time to Return to Night of the Zealot. Published back in 2018, the box is a bit like the principle of the Nightmare decks for Lord of the Rings LCG, adding more depth and complexity to the game rather than simply making things more difficult. As well as the new cards to swap into the existing encounters, we get new player cards – upgrades to several of the staples from the core set, which is very nice.

Return to Night of the Zealot

The main story though is all about the changes to the scenarios that this box brings. The core set scenarios are, almost by definition, fairly basic, as they are designed to take us through the learning process for the game. We don’t get anything like as complicated as some of those in Path to Carcosa or The Circle Undone, because the Night of the Zealot campaign is designed to teach us how the game works. Return to Night of the Zealot therefore has the great opportunity to actually make something out of the box.

Return to Night of the Zealot

Return to The Gathering is probably the most-changed in this regard. This is the tutorial scenario, of course, and it is probably the most-played scenario out there, seeing as how it’s the starting point for us all! Things are subtly different, however, as we start off on a different path out of the study and find ourselves in a whole different house, it seems! There’s a definite change to the way the game plays, this time around – it feels different enough that I have to say it really stands out for me as a cracking way to implement this type of expansion.

Return to Night of the Zealot

The familiar story beats are all there, of course – the Ghoul Priest, the rats, all the rest of it. The only changes here for me are that I didn’t seem to end up getting the assistance of Lita Chandler, and for what I think was the first time in the many games with this scenario, I decided not to burn the house down!

Return to Night of the Zealot

Return to The Midnight Masks has much more subtle differences, with some alternate locations as well as alternative cultists for us to interrogate. There is also a whole different cultist deck to shuffle into the encounter deck. These new cultists are part of the Devourer’s Cult, which not only have doom added to them when they enter play, but can also steal clues to slow us down. Again, it’s not so much about making things difficult, but rather adding a new depth to the scenario.

Return to Night of the Zealot

Something that I particularly like about the expansion is the addition of achievements to tick off, as we attempt to play the scenarios and accomplish set goals. It’s a very simplistic way to add replayability to the game, for sure, but even so, it’s interesting as we attempt to explore the entire city of Arkham in this one, or interrogate all six cultists. Not entirely sure how that last could possibly happen, without some serious attempts to remove doom and stop the implacable advance, but anyway!

Return to Night of the Zealot

The Devourer Below is probably the closest to a “regular” scenario of the three from the core set, and the Return to The Devourer Below is perhaps the least-changed of the trio. We have a card that increases the health of Umôrdhoth (just what it needed!) and we have some different Ghouls, but that’s really where the additions end. It still plays quite difficult, and I am still left gobsmacked by how many close calls I end up with during it! Having just managed to collect enough clues to advance the final Act, doom picks up and the Agenda advances to 3b, where the Great Old One wakes up and we need to kill it. With no Lita Chandler to throw into the gaping maw of the beast, I was left to actually fight the thing, which was hardly easy! Agnes ended up dying, and with the last shreds of her sanity fraying, Trish used a Backstab to do the final points of damage.

Return to Night of the Zealot

What a victory!

This is a great design for an expansion, and one that I really enjoyed finally getting to play with after having had it all these years! For almost three years, I’ve had this thing principally for the fact that it’s a storage box, with some nice player cards that are useful across the board of course.

The biggest thing is naturally the new scenario cards that change things up. A couple of encounter sets are completely swapped out, otherwise each scenario has just a few tweaks with maybe two encounter cards added into the deck. And yet, these scenarios play out much more interestingly, for the most part.

I think a lot of people are down on this expansion in particular because the price point is the same as each subsequent Return To box, and yet the content is much lighter because there are only three scenarios involved, and not a full eight. If nothing else, the additional space in this box is useful for storing the tokens and some standalone scenarios. I definitely am a fan, at any rate!

The Circle Undone – looking for doom!

Hey everybody,
I’ve faced the doom of the world, and to some extent, I’ve survived! Let’s take a look into the final scenarios of The Circle Undone campaign.

Now, last time I sided with the Lodge, and I “won” when Carl Sandford managed to bind the spirit of Keziah Mason into his little black book. Oh dear! The campaign was over for me, and the Silver Twilight would begin their true work. Oh dear, oh dear! So I shuffled up and replayed the scenario and decided to side with the witches, whereupon the revenant spirit of Keziah Mason possessed Anette Mason, and turned her evil. Oh dear! At any rate, Valentino is alive, but the remaining three characters from the prologue are now dead – this campaign is going really well, wouldn’t you say?!

 

So I am now In the Clutches of Chaos. Scenario seven brings us back full circle (there’s a pun there, somewhere) to the fortune-teller Anna Kaslow, and the streets of Arkham. The clouds above are not natural. Phantasmal shapes shift and churn within the mist above. The scenario is really pregnant with foreboding, and then it begins. The set-up here is so familiar to me as a fan of Arkham Horror the board game, as we have many of the locations from the original board – but it gets better! The unique thing with this scenario is the breaches and incursions special rule – breaches (represented by resource tokens) are opening across the city, and if a fourth token would ever be placed on a location, instead an incursion takes place, and a doom token is placed on it instead.

Doom isn’t added to the agenda as normal, but instead we have (investigators) +1 breach tokens placed in random locations. In addition, almost all locations have no clue tokens added to them when they’re revealed – instead, by clearing breaches we have the opportunity to add clues to a random location. It’s all very random, and it feels incredibly like the board game, where we’re trying to close gates before we reach the gate limit. It was really nice!

 

The scenario concludes when the possessed Anette Mason is defeated – which I managed to do quite cinematically, with Joe Diamond softening her up before Diana Stanley finished her off with the Twilight dagger. Wonderful! In the fourth Interlude of the cycle, we come to realise that everything we’ve been doing has almost been a distraction from the massive breach that has been in the sky this entire time, engulfing the stars. Oh dear, oh dear!

At this point, we’re pretty much resigned to our fate, and when a group of nightgaunts come down from the sky, we mount up and fly into the void, in a desperate gambit to try and push back the chaos!

 

Before the Black Throne is almost a spoiler in itself, isn’t it – clearly we’re going to go up against Azathoth in some description. In every other Lovecraft game we’ve got, Azathoth is always the end – it wakes up and destroys the world. How would that be implemented in the card game?

As is now the pattern for this game, the cycle ends with a trip into an Other World – this time, we’re into the Cosmos, the Void. The implementation is quite nice, though, using the top cards from the investigator decks to provide “empty space” that we have to cross, replacing them with Cosmos cards where possible. It’s not a straightforward trip from A to B, however, and we don’t have a map – we need to try to find the way, which isn’t as straightforward as all that. These Cosmos cards can only be placed in specific locations relative to where we currently are – it sounds very regimented, but it’s actually a really great way to implement that flailing in the unknown.

 

Of course, there are anchor points in the void, and we’re trying to get from one to another at each turn of the Act deck. It’s also really nice how all of the investigators need to make it to the same point before the Act can advance, or else they will be killed.

Azathoth is present right from the beginning, and cannot be influenced by player cards in any way. We cannot fight him, but we can be attacked, by it, and many treachery cards can cause that. It looms over the whole scenario, and it feels almost insurmountable right from the start as a result.

Something that I found really interesting about the finale here is that it isn’t over when the Agenda runs out. I was all for making a suicidal attempt, and both of my investigators were only 1 or 2 points of damage away from death anyway, but no! Things carry on, and any doom that would be placed on the Agenda is instead placed on Azathoth (who has been collecting doom throughout, I hasten to add!)

To finally advance to victory, we need to find the Black Throne, and remove all of the clue tokens on there. Its shroud value is potentially huge, as it is linked to how much doom Azathoth has collected, but in no small part thanks to the Seeker shenanigans of Joe Diamond, I was able to actually clear all of the clues and – with a lot of luck – win!

I mean, I call it victory – Joe is now insane, and has joined the immortal Pipers of Azathoth forever. But, for now, Azathoth slumbers…

 


What an absolutely fantastic cycle The Circle Undone is!

From the almost inauspicious beginnings when we’re at the Meiger Estate and we’re not sure what’s going on, through the strange investigations into both the witch coven of Anette Mason and the Silver Twilight Lodge themselves, this cycle has got so many twists and turns, it feels like an absolute labyrinth. The designers stated that they crafted a tale that pitted the all-male Lodge against the all-female coven, resulting along the way with the theme of good vs evil (though which side is which is, of course, a matter of perspective). Given the nature of this conflict, the choice of Azathoth being the Ancient One at the end was almost inevitable, as that particular god has no motive beyond wholesale destruction.

It all works together really quite well, but that is not to say that the cycle is without its flaws. I’ve said previously that the storyline feels very much like it is pulling us along, and regardless of what happens during each game, there is a sense, at times, that there is stuff in-between games that will place us on the right track, regardless. This wasn’t quite so obvious in either Dunwich or, particularly, Carcosa, and it did distract me at times, I can’t deny.

But that’s not to say that The Circle Undone is a bad campaign. Quite the opposite, in fact. The atmosphere of gothic horror is palpable, and the theme really drips off in great clots. I love that this cycle explores the witchcraft side of Lovecraft’s writings, albeit tying in with the cosmic horror represented by the blind idiot god at the end. There can sometimes be a weird feeling when you manage to shoot a Great Old One, but here we have no chance to actually fight Azathoth, and that’s something I really love! Instead, we’ve just got to try and survive so that the story can end a different way.

I also adored the way we get to explore Arkham as a town here. Sure, we’ve had glimpses in the earlier cycles, when we’ve been at the Historical Society or the Miskatonic Museum, but this cycle really strives to bring us back to the town as a place that, if we’ve played the board game, we’ll be intimately familiar with. We get to run around the different locations much like we do in the board game, and it feels absolutely delightful! I really haven’t had so much joy from the game as when I’m getting to play with stuff like this, so I heartily commend the designers for that.

Overall, it’s not without its flaws, but I think the final impression of The Circle Undone as a campaign is that it is one of the best out there. I am definitely playing this one again at some point, and I imagine the games will feel quite different in choosing different paths from the start.

The Circle Undone – looking for cultists

Hey everybody,

There’s no stopping me now, as I plunge ahead with my Circle Undone campaign! I’ve said this so often during my blogs so far, but I’ve really enjoyed myself with this cycle. The witch/cultist theme is utterly incredible, and I think being set firmly in Arkham has been a real boost, too. Don’t get me wrong, I have enjoyed my jaunts into Dunwich and across the Atlantic, but here we’ve got almost the sense of exploring the old board game, and I love it!!

As always with these blogs, spoilers for the scenario will follow!

For the Greater Good sees us rummaging around the Silver Twilight Lodge in search of answers to what is going on. As enemies of the Lodge, my investigators were creeping around trying to avoid alerting anyone to their presence, and it does somehow feel like that’s exactly what we’re doing when playing this one! I’m sure I was trying to breathe quietly, just in case!

As we’ve seen in a number of scenarios now, this one has something of an unfolding map as we investigate further into the Lodge, moving through rooms in our search for clues. It’s not just clues that we’re after though – this scenario uses chaos tokens to represent “keys”, which we’re trying to locate for an unspecified purpose. I assumed it would be something to open the door to the Inner Sanctum but, while some locations are indeed barred to you unless you have a specific key, their purpose is instead linked to a puzzle box that is in the possession of Nathan Wick, a senior member of the Lodge.

The objective here is to get the box and the keys, but the way that the scenario unfolds, all of this feels like it happens quite beautifully and natural. An interesting point to this, the box had no other function in this scenario other than being the McGuffin, which I thought was an interesting point!

The encounter cards are quite an interesting mix, with a few that hate on the investigators for collecting keys (poor Joe was almost driven insane by being the one collecting all four), but otherwise it wasn’t what I’d call a particularly difficult scenario to handle. That said, I’d finally taken the time prior to playing to tune up my decks with some of the 15 experience points I’d earned so far, so maybe that helped!

Things are getting real in the fourth pack, Union and Disillusion, as we follow the Lodge to the Unvisited Isle in an attempt to either help or hinder the ritual. From the start, the atmosphere is laden with dread, as the set-up tells us to decide if we’re with or against the Order. Sheesh!

The Unvisited Isle is yet another classic location of course – and as with each time such a location turns up, we get to really run around and explore things, learning more about the place than we ever did from the board game!

So we’re running around the island, either lighting braziers (if we’re with the Order) or extinguishing them (if we’re with the witches), and there are several callbacks along the way to earlier scenarios, such as being forced to split up at one point. The scenario pack encounter set even includes several cards from the whippoorwill encounter set, calling back Dunwich! The brazier mechanic is quite interesting, involving a combined skill test, for instance you might need to test strength and agility (10) to complete it. Compound skill tests are fairly exciting, if I’m honest, and I’m surprised it has taken this long for the designers to implement them!

Everything kicks off when the Spectral Watcher shows up and starts to make his menacing way towards us. A new location, the Geist Trap, is put into play, and the objective is to defeat the Watcher while there – are you getting Ghostbusters vibes? Good. In a lucky twist, I’d managed to get myself fairly tooled-up so that everything was in place: a brazier must be lit, at a combined skill check of 20, so I’d drawn enough cards that I could comfortably over-commit and make sure the only thing I needed to do was to defeat the blighter!

The ending is a bit weird on this one, if I’m perfectly honest. Having decided to throw in my lot with the Order, I made some story choices along the way that have led to me seemingly dooming the world! The final resolution reads: The true work of the Silver Twilight Lodge has now begun. The Silver Twilight Lodge wins the campaign.

What?! There are still two packs left in the cycle! Well, it seems that I may have miscalculated…

I’m probably going to re-play this one and try siding with the witches to see how that works out for me.

The Circle Undone – looking for witches

Hey everybody,

It’s time to continue my journey into witchcraft and the spooky goings-on around Arkham, as I make a proper start on The Circle Undone campaign, just when FFG have announced the Return To box will be coming out this summer! Very exciting stuff there – including a full Tarot deck to add even more craziness. I’m very much looking forward to having that when it is released, I must say. For now, though, let’s start on The Secret Name

Okay, so things are getting really interesting here! The setup for this scenario is something else, and covers two full pages of text as the possibilities are laid before you. I said last time that this campaign felt a little like it was trying to lead us more by the nose, and that feels true here still, although not necessarily in a bad way. It definitely feels like there is a lot of story that the designers are trying to get through, and maybe splitting it up into eight separate scenarios was never going to be enough…

From the mouth of no less a person than Carl Sandford, head of the Order of the Silver Twilight, we learn of the presence of a coven of witches in Arkham, and the Order is looking into the strange happenings going on in the town. The event at Josef Meiger’s estate was intended to study the strange mist going round, and see if there is anything they can learn from it. Pursuit of this knowledge leads us to Keziah Mason at the Witch House, which of course long-term Arkham fans will know only too well! 

The story of this pack is truly wonderful, even with all of its nuts and bolts sometimes getting in the way. We start off with the prosaic halls of the Witch House, and when able to we burst through Walter Gilman’s Room into a realm of horror and witchcraft that, I don’t mind telling you, was just truly fantastic! I mean, we’ve had story elements like this before, when exploring Mont St Michel during the Carcosa storyline, but somehow here it’s done much better. The locations spin out into other worlds, or other times, and it all feels like some fantastical type of fever-dream, very fitting for what is precisely going on here.

The pack is perhaps infamous for the delightful little critter Brown Jenkin, a super-rat who just keeps coming back time and again! Keziah’s familiar, he is nothing to the horrors of Nahab, a sort of super-witch-ghost who can never be killed, merely exhausted… The enemies are quite annoying, for sure, but even that has some really great elements where it all just feels so, I don’t know, real. The scenario culminates in a ritual where we try to banish this unwelcome spirit, returning to the ruined house from the otherworlds. Cracking stuff!

The Wages of Sin

Comparatively speaking, The Wages of Sin is a much more laid back scenario. We’re off to the graveyard at the dead of night, because of course we are! The locations are double-sided again, with the real world face up to start with, then the spectral world on the reverse. We also have two encounter decks here, a real world deck and a spectral deck, to be drawn from depending on which type of location we’re at.

To start with, we’re just gathering clues to track down the coven, and everything proceeds much as normal. Then the agenda advances, and all hell breaks loose when a number of Heretic cards are put into play. The objective is to banish these guys, but there are so many caveats on them that doing so can prove to be tricky, to say the least! Added in here, we have what has already become my most-hated encounter set in the game so far, The Spectral Watcher.

Each of the Heretics is a story card, so there is some text on the reverse, much as we have seen with cards in the Carcosa cycle. Each has different ways of banishing it, detailed on the back of the card – when the Heretic is defeated, the card is flipped over, and oftentimes you’ll discover what you then need to do to actually banish that Heretic forever, before then having to flip it back to deal with again! However, the clues that we’ve been gathering over the course of the cycle so far can provide us with Spectral Web asset cards, which function much like the Powder of Ibn-Ghazi in the Dunwich Legacy cycle, giving us that fighting chance to deal with these Heretics.

This is the first time that I have ever Resigned from a scenario out of sheer hopelessness. I did misunderstand the text on one of the Heretics, so I probably didn’t need to, but I definitely felt like this game beat me down on this one! Pretty much every Arkham Horror LCG scenario is tough, but this one – considering, like I said at the beginning, it’s a more laid-back scenario than The Secret Name – really is difficult to deal with, all the same! Luckily, the fail-forward mechanic employed by the game means that it never really matters whether you complete the scenario properly, or if you win or lose. Something will happen to put you back on the right path for the next pack, even if you resign at the earliest opportunity and made no attempt to fulfil the objective. 

I’ve said it before, and I’ll no doubt keep saying it, but I really love the feel of this cycle! Covens of witches with veiled agendas, snooping around graveyards and dealing with the tormented spirits of long-dead heretics, it’s all just fantastic! Lovecraft was of course all about the spooky and the weird, not necessarily all cosmic horror, and I think it’s really nice to get this aspect of his work discovered in the game. Silver Twilight has always been a bit hit with me, going back to the original Call of Cthulhu days, as well. So that’s a big plus for me! 

All in all, I’m really enjoying myself, although I haven’t spent a single point of experience yet, so I need to get moving forward with updating my decks before moving on to the next scenario.

February Retrospective

Hey everybody,
Another month has been and gone, and it’s once more time for another retrospective blog! I’m quite enjoying this idea, so hopefully that’ll continue for the year ahead! It’s been a pretty productive month as well, with a lot more hobby and stuff to report!

Since last month, I’ve been making terrific progress with the Ossiarch Bonereapers, which was most recently chronicled in my update blog, here. I’ve now got 590 points-worth of the bone-boys painted up in the colours of the Petrifex Elite. It’s been a lot of fun painting these chaps, although for now I’ve taken a small break as I look at what else I have that needs attention.

The next part of my plan for the Bonereapers is to have the Necropolis Stalkers painted, although I’m not sure whether to build them as the Stalkers or the Immortis Guard. It is on my radar to get more troops, although I’m kinda waiting for the inevitable Start Collecting box, which will likely have these guys in there. Unless they go for a cavalry box? That said, with 40k moving to these combat patrol boxes, I don’t know if they’re planning to continue to do these for much longer. At any rate, for now I’m continuing to build and paint what I have, rather than branching out and buying yet more miniature men.

Quite the sea-change for me, really!

At some point in the near future, though, it’ll be the turn of this magnificent specimen, and I cannot wait to get this one built!

In the middle of getting this small army of mine assembled, I did a little work on the nascent Black Legion that I’ve been wanting to get off the starting block for quite some time now! I’ve been inspired by Martin Sivertsen on Instagram and his own burgeoning Black Legion force! It’s a beautiful force, and I think it’s about time that I got somewhere with my own. In addition, I’ve also been hard at work building up the remaining models from the Necron side of the Indomitus box (I’ve decided to sell the Space Marine portion, more money for the stuff I do want!)

I’m still not a huge fan of the new Necron aesthetic of shambling robot zombies, but the army is of course my first love, and I do find myself enjoying the look of the new Crypteks, so have picked up a Psychomancer for the list that I talked about a while back, and I’m planning to start work on painting the Plasmancer pretty soon. That juggernaut of GW painting, Garfy, posted yesterday showing the new Chronomancer mini and it’s absolutely beautiful. Probably going to be a while before this one is released separately, but I suppose it’s at least four more months before we will see the lockdown restrictions removed here in the UK, so I’ve got the time! I’ve got a lot of disparate ideas for 40k floating around, but it seems as though I’m much more likely to focus myself on Age of Sigmar right now.

Slaanesh has been on my mind of course, now that we’ve had the new range of mortals released. I’ve picked up the Shardspeaker, such a fantastic model, but have otherwise reined myself in here. In all honesty, this is a force that is a long way off just now, and I’d rather keep focusing my efforts on the bone boys to get a decent sized force finished.

In addition to the Bonereapers and Slaanesh, I’ve had my eye on the Lumineth Realm-lords, following the latest Warhammer Preview this month. There are some very beautiful miniatures in this range, to be sure, and I’m trying my hardest to resist buying anything just now! There’s definitely something Old World about these minis, that makes me nostalgic for the old days. I keep thinking I might just pick up a box of the basic infantry, just to have a go…

Lumineth Realm-lords

So far, though, I have been a good boy!

Something that I haven’t been able to resist, though, is this:

The “latest” expansion for Warcry is a few months old now of course, but I’ve been thinking on it for quite some time, vacillating over whether to get it or whether it was a bit steep for the content involved.

However, I am glad to have it, despite all the negatives floating around online! Warcry is absolutely one of the things near the top of my list right now. I’ve been wanting to get further into that game recently, although I’ve still not played it after that game back in September. I’ve got the Iron Golem models from the original core set primed and waiting, and I’ve been thinking that may well be the next project to get underway with. Of course, Warcry could be the perfect way to start with Slaanesh when the time comes, and I’m sure I’ll be exploring more of that here!

Arkham Horror LCG The Circle Undone

At least I’ve been playing Arkham Horror LCG, and have managed to get started with recording my endeavours on the blog here! With working from home more regularly during the current lockdown, I’ve found that I have the time while on my lunchbreak to get a game in, which has been quite good for getting to explore the game some more.

Taking a sharp left turn now, I watched The Phantom Menace last weekend, for the first time in what feels like an age. It’s hardly the best film in the series, of course, but it did feel quite wonderful to be watching Star Wars once again, and I did feel really quite nostalgic for the whole saga. I used to watch the prequels almost every Christmas, while reading a selection of the novels and comics set around there – to the point where I had almost developed a set scheme for “my prequel Christmas”. I do quite miss the days when I had nothing much going on, and could read a 400 page book in a day, happy times! I’d like to try and get back into that maybe someday here, revisit the old days and chronicle some of those classic tales here – though much like with the Legacy series I re-read last December, it’ll be interesting to see if these things hold up.

Something that I have finished reading this month is the Warhammer Crime anthology No Good Men. I really enjoyed the first novel in the series, so had been looking forward to reading more. Anthologies can always be a bit ropey, and I think this one is no different. Seven short stories from Black Library alums (including Chris Wraight, author of the inaugural Bloodlines), all set on the world of Alecto and around the hive city of Varanganthua. The thing is, after Bloodlines, and after a couple of stories here, things begin to sound all the same. Probators going about their investigations, etc. There are a lot of missing persons, it seems, in the hive city, and I found myself wanting a bit more variety. I’m not really that down on the book, of course, but things just tend to blur into one at the end. Individually, the stories are pretty good, and very enjoyable with that noir feeling. Some are better than others, of course, but I definitely like the change from space marines and the like.

I’ve got Flesh and Steel, the next Warhammer Crime novel, ready and waiting. But I’m also hearing such good things about the first Star Wars High Republic novel, Light of the Jedi, that I’m thinking I might have to pick that one up sooner than later.