There is only war!

Hey everybody!
Well, after the exciting launch of the new edition of Warhammer 40,000 at the weekend, there really could only be one game that would be featured on my game day blog today! This isn’t going to be any kind of exhaustive account of the game, but more some of my initial thoughts after getting the new starter set and having had a flick through the rules. So let’s take a look inside the Dark Imperium!

Warhammer 40,000 Dark Imperium

Warhammer 40,000 8th Edition is amazing. While I haven’t yet had a chance to field any of my armies in the new rules, I can still say that this is the most excited that I have ever been for this game in the last three years, and I’ve been fiddling with army lists and devouring rules, building and painting more miniatures, and generally basking in the glow of the new for a while now. 7th Edition confused and scared me, and given the fact that this is supposed to be a game that you’re supposed to play for fun, that’s just weird. By contrast, 8th Edition seems much more straightforward, while retaining a degree of depth.

I had a total of three games played during 7th, so I’m not about to launch into a comparison of the two editions, but I may still make the odd comment. To begin, though, I think it’ll help to go over the phases of the game and see how the whole thing is structured.

So, once you’ve chosen armies and missions, and have gone through the various stages of setting up your miniatures on the table, the game begins with the Movement phase. Models all have a Movement characteristic, which is now representative of the individual models rather than a stock number for a particular unit type, no matter that unit’s biology. I do like this, as it makes things much easier because everything is right there on the datasheet for that unit, rather than having to remember stuff all the time. (I’ve ranted about this before, though!)

Next comes the Psychic Phase. Something that I usually don’t bother with, having my main army as Necrons and my second army as Dark Eldar, the Psychic Phase is nevertheless something that I really like the look of, and has been one of the reasons I’m so keen to get moving on my Genestealer Cults army! Things have been simplified, so that you now attempt to manifest a psychic power by rolling 2D6, and Deny the Witch just means roll 2D6 and beat the test result. Seems very straightforward, rather than gaining all those warp charge dice, and using some to do things with and all the rest of it.

The Shooting Phase has changed insofar as units can split fire, and the roll to hit is now a target in the unit’s profile, for example 3+ for the Genestealer Primus, rather than having a Ballistics Skill value that is subtracted from 7 in order to find out what you need to roll. BS, indeed. There is still the nonsense about rolling again to see if you wound the target, comparing the strength value of the weapon to the toughness value of the model you’re shooting. It seems unnecessary to have to roll twice to see if a shot was fired at a unit, but at least there’s no longer the need to memorise a massive table of what you need to roll to actually wound somebody – now, there’s a very simple chart that does simplify this element a great deal. My main issue though is that this element is still in the game, to begin with! In real life, if I shoot you in the head, the odds are it will cause a wound, you know? Anyway… There are still Saves to be made, either armour saves or cover saves, and this involves another change, as weapons have modifiers to these saves on them now. I like this, as it makes a lot more sense to me. For example, going back to our Primus example, he has a Save of 5+. However, if you’re shooting at him with a Necron Immortal wielding a gauss blaster, those weapons have -2 Armour Penetration, meaning that the saving throw is made worse by 2. So that Primus needs to roll a 7 or more to avoid that wound, on a single D6. I don’t know if you’d ever use Immortals for that sort of attack, but the Primus does have five wounds, and could be the Genestealer Cults’ warlord, so it could be useful!

After shooting comes the Charge Phase, where you can charge an enemy unit within 12″ by rolling 2D6 and moving, before which the enemy has the chance to fire Overwatch at you. This is an out-of-sequence shooting attack, where all shots hit on 6+ regardless of the previous Ballistics Skill business, to reflect the panic I suppose. Whereas previously this could be detrimental to your charge, as you had to remove casualties from the front, meaning you might not have enough models to get within melee distance, now the controlling player chooses where his casualties come from, so you can remove models from the back if you want.

The Fight Phase has changed insofar as the charging unit will go first, now that Initiative has gone. I’ve talked about this before as well, how I liked Initiative and stuff, so I’m a bit gutted about that. Apart from that, though, it does still feel mechanically like 7th Edition. You charge, you pile in, then you slug it out with hand-to-hand weapons. This is pretty much the same as shooting before, though you use the Weapons Skill value to determine hits. I’m looking forward to seeing how my Necron Lychguard fare this time around, as the warscythes do look to be quite beastly in close combat – hitting on 3+, then wounding most often on 3+ also with a -4 AP and 2 wounds per hit, that looks awesome! As an example, a unit of five Lychguard would make ten attack rolls that hit a Genestealer Cults Chimera on 3+, they’d wound on 4+ because the strength and toughness are both 7, but due to the AP, the Chimera’s save would be 7+. It’s too early in the day to work out probability, but I’m sure it would be glorious!

Interestingly, you don’t get the additional dice for charging – I guess getting to go first in combat is bonus enough!

Finally, the Morale Phase checks to see how many models from a unit died that turn, and adds that number to a D6 roll. If the result is higher than the Leadership value of the unit, you remove models from that unit equal to the number of points higher you rolled. So if you roll a 5 and 4 models were slain from a unit of Neophyte Hybrids, their Leadership is 7 so you remove two more models from that unit.


These are the core rules of the game now, so a lot of it has indeed been simplified. However, there is a strong element of Age of Sigmar in this game insofar as each datasheet for each unit contains unit-specific rules. While the core rules are therefore just 8 pages long, there are tons more rules in the place of the universal special rules that took up a chunk of the core rulebook previously. Sure, things like the unit types rules have been drastically simplified, and these changes are definitely for the better, as it makes it so much more straightforward to seeing just how a unit works. I’ve rambled about my difficulties in trying to find the rules for Triarch Praetorians previously, needing two different books and about four separate pages within those books just to figure out how the models work. None of that exists now, really. If you know the 8 pages of rules, all you need in front of you is your own datasheet for that unit, and away you go.

(Of course, there are army-wide rules that still exist, such as the Reanimation Protocols rule for Necrons, which aren’t detailed on each and every datasheet. So you may still have a little flicking around to start with.)

I love the fact that the datasheets have everything you need to know, even down to the most common weapon loadout profiles. True, I’d have preferred to have seen every weapon on there for even greater ease, but I imagine some units might get quickly over-loaded. But these things are few and far between. In the main, if you want to know what a weapon on your model does, the rules are there on the same page as that model.

The three ways to play thing, ported pretty much directly from Age of Sigmar, is also really cool as it allows the game to be more things to more people. If you like picking out an awesome element from the narrative and re-creating that, you can do that. If you want to have an equal points-level, you can do that as well. Points have been taken one step further, by having an overall “power” level for a unit, based on roughly 25-3o power for every 500 points. While initially it seemed that power levels were being decried as worthless, over the launch weekend it seems that pretty much everyone at my local stores were talking in terms of power rather than points. It seems to be a great way to quickly build a list and start playing, rather than spending an evening working out the exact cost of your army. Of course, if that’s your thing, then you can still do that.

What’s even more interesting to me is the fact that there are 8 pages of core rules, the majority of this blog so far having gone over them, but there’s an additional Appendix that adds in a bunch more rules that you can add in to however you choose to play, meaning you really can make 8th Edition as complicated as you like.

I think the rules overall are a great way to invest a lot of narrative into the game, and I’m really looking forward to getting some games in soon!


As always with a new edition, we also get a new Starter Set for the game, which has previously come with all of the dice and templates that you need, in addition to a rulebook and lots of fantastic miniatures. Well, this edition doesn’t use templates or special dice, but we do get the full hardback rulebook, along with some truly spectacular miniatures in the new Dark Imperium box!

Warhammer 40,000 Dark Imperium

The factions included here are the Primaris Space Marines, and the Death Guard. So it’s a bit similar to the last box, Dark Vengeance, which featured loyalist vs Chaos space marines, but the miniatures here are really quite spectacular. I think the painting video where Duncan paints the Lord of Contagion really shows how incredible these new guys are!

Of course, people are a bit twitchy about the new Primaris marines spelling the end of the current Space Marine line, but I’ve got to be honest, I think these guys look amazing. I’d been back and forth over whether I liked them, before finally settling on a yes a day or two before the release. Having now had the opportunity to actually build and paint some, I think this is what Space Marines should have always been. The Mk VII armoured chaps will always hold a special place for me, and I plan to continue building and painting them for my Novamarines, but I think the Primaris are certainly a worthy addition to the universe, and I can’t wait to see what we get in the multipart kits that will inevitably follow later in the summer…

You get the full hardback core rules, which alone cost £35 and accounts for most of the weight of this thing, as well as short “codexes” for each of the factions that have some paint schemes, some fluff, and the datasheets (they even include the points values for them, if that’s something that interests you!) And of course, you get 53 beautiful (if disgusting, in the case of the Nurgle stuff) miniatures. £95 seems like a lot of money, don’t get me wrong, but it also feels about right for what you get. Burning of Prospero came with 47 miniatures, and a separate game, for the same price. So it does seem to be fairly standard – and of course, if you manage to get it for less, then go for it!


With three ways to play the game, straightforward rules for the game, and an increasingly phenomenal miniatures catalogue with which to populate the game, Warhammer 40k has never seemed more exciting! Locally, 8th Edition seems to have garnered a lot of interest among the “never playing 40k” crowd, and while I’ve long been interested in the game, I’ve never been more keen to finally get some regular games in!

Announcement Day! #amazing!

Hey everybody!
Well, it’s Announcement Day once more, and my good god, what an announcement day it is, as well!

Take a look at the news here!

We’re starting with the next block, Ixalan, which of course has already been talked about previously. Vraska is back, leading pirates against dinosaurs in the search for the fabled city of gold, Orazca. This sounds hilarious, and could well be amazing! The second set of the block, Rivals of Ixalan, sounds like you’ve made it to the city, and are now trying to control it in order to gain the power of the plane. Not sure how that will play out in the mechanics of the set, but before that, we’ve got a multiplayer boardgame-style game coming out: Explorers of Ixalan! Four 60-card decks, and 50 game tiles will allow you to battle for control of the city, which sounds like it should be a lot of fun!

Between Planechase, Archenemy, and now this, it seems that Wizards are real keen to push the multiplayer format. That’ll be interesting!

The next duel deck is to be Merfolk vs Goblins, which sounds cool. There’s another Un-set coming out, which I’m not a fan of personally. To celebrate Magic’s 25 year anniversary, a Masters set is coming out in March that features cards from across the entire history of the game.

And finally…

Dominaria

Cold War: CIA vs KGB

Hey everybody!
It’s another game day here at spalanz.com, and this time around, it’s a small-scale game that is falling under the spotlight of awesome, the two-player Cold War: CIA vs KGB!

Cold War: CIA vs KGB

This is a game that I first came across five or six years ago now, when the revised edition came out from Fantasy Flight Games and I managed to pick it up for under a tenner. The Cold War isn’t an era that I’m super familiar with, though since I had been to Berlin in 2008, I’d grown a lot more interested generally in that whole era.

The game is basically a bluffing game, where the players take on the role of the CIA or the KGB and send a variety of operatives on missions to control global territory and win the ideological struggle of east vs west. Let’s take a look at some of the cards!

Cold War: CIA vs KGB

The CIA and the KGB each have the same resources to draw upon, from the deputy director the the master spy or the assassin. The cards all have the same abilities, they just have different artwork to indicate the faction they belong to. Each of these agents has an initiative (the number next to their photograph) and an agenda (the text boxes on the right). We’ll get back to these things in more detail in a moment.

Cold War: CIA vs KGB

The objective of each game round, representative of one year’s struggle in the Cold War, is to win influence over a country or event that is determined at the start of that round. Each of these Objectives is worth a victory point (the number in the bottom right corner), and is fought over by agents recruiting Groups of people to aid them in their attempt to exert influence there. This is shown by the Objective’s Stability, the large number in the centre of the card there. These Objectives also have a population ranking, and agents can never recruit more Groups than the number of population icons (on the bottom left of the card). Let’s take a look at some Groups:

Cold War: CIA vs KGB

These cards all belong to one of four factions – political (purple), media (blue), economic (gold) and military (green) – and have a power rating from 1 to 6, as well as an ability common to that faction. These Groups are used by players to attempt to gain influence over the objective, and a player can recruit enough Group power up to but not exceeding the Objective’s Stability.

For example, the Egypt Objective shown above has a population of four, and a Stability of eleven. A player may recruit the Police (4), Bankers (6) and Artists (1) Groups in order to attempt to gain control of the Objective and claim its 20 victory points. If both players have managed to accumulate 11 power-worth of Groups, then the Bias icons (in the top right of the Objective cards) are used to break ties – for Egypt, the player who has the most political (purple) power would win, but if no player has any political power or those numbers are tied, it then comes down to economic (gold) power, and so forth.

If a player has more power than the Objective’s Stability, he causes civil disorder and his agent is revealed, and removed from the game “as his superiors disavow all knowledge of the agent and his activities and abandon their agent to his doom”. Wonderful stuff!

Assuming civil disorder has been avoided, the player with the most power places his domination token on the Objective – but the struggle isn’t over yet! The two agents are then in for Debriefing, where they are revealed and their agendas are resolved in initiative order, lowest to highest. Three of the six agents have separate effects that happen, depending on whose domination token is on the Objective – for instance, if the Master Spy is resolved, and the KGB token is on the Objective, the CIA will actually get to claim that Objective for themselves.

Cold War: CIA vs KGB

So that’s the basic gameplay for Cold War: CIA vs KGB. There is so much to the actual game turns, of course, as you attempt to bluff your opponent and fight over the Objectives round after round. The individual effects of Groups can cause a lot of back and forth as the game goes on, and right up to the point where the agents are revealed, you never really know if you’ve won the Objective that turn. There is so much to immerse yourself in, as the stock 1960s-era photos help provide that definite feel for the world of the game.

Curiously, though, it’s the sort of game that generally flies under the radar, I feel. The box is tiny – I purposefully took that photo at the start from quite a way off to try to show you that it’s the sort of game you can very easily travel with (even more easily than Space Hulk Death Angel, whose entire contents will fit into a deck box). It’s not the usual sort of flashy thing that you see on the shelves of your LGS, like the fantasy and sci-fi things that more often than not take up room there. There are also no expansions, just a simple collection of 59 cards and a couple of cardboard tokens, yet the enjoyment you can get out of this is just great!

I just love it!

Magic Metamorphosis

Hey everybody!
Having a week off work means that I can take some time off and relax, especially since I’ve now finished my degree. It also means I can be around to see things like this come out much quicker than normal!

Mark Rosewater has got a new article up on the Wizards website, talking about upcoming changes to Magic the Gathering’s set structure and stuff – changes that will be happening from next spring, no less!

Back in 2015, we had the end of Tarkir block and Magic Origins, which together were the last three-set block and the last core set, respectively. Since then, Magic has been published in two-set blocks that have taken in Zendikar, Innistrad, Kaladesh and now, Amonkhet, with Ixalan coming later this year. Each of these five blocks is a large set followed by a small set, the idea being that two-set blocks wouldn’t allow for the kind of fatigue that three-set blocks had caused. However, it seems players are still upset with having small sets, no matter how big the block overall happens to be, so starting with the April 2018 set (currently named “Soup”, but which will be announced later this week, apparently!) Magic will be see three large sets published every year, which may or may not be linked by location. Intriguing…

The fourth set of the year is going to be a core set again, only with a difference. It still seems to be geared primarily towards newer players, but the idea is to include more reprints that will benefit all players without being straight-jacketed into the theme of a particular block. I always liked core sets, and was sorry to see them go (you can read all about my love of M12 here!) so I’m excited to see what this could bring!

The Gatewatch

The Gatewatch is going to be dialled back a little. This is kinda fine with me, as I like a good planeswalker but having so many Gideons running around right now is a little unnecessary. I think the idea of including different planeswalkers is good, though I do get why they wanted the Gatewatch in the first place, so it was never a huge deal for me either way. They’re also cutting back on the Masterpieces series, so that not every set will have them. I’m conflicted by this – I only ever opened one, Mana Confluence, and pretty much immediately sold it anyway. Paired with the return of core sets and the potential for reprints there, I’m not exactly distraught at the loss of Masterpieces. However, their presence in regular packs made people open more packs generally, and so card prices have been particularly good in sets where they’ve occurred. If fewer packs are going to be opened, then I’m a bit concerned that the cost of Standard will creep back up again, and I’ll be left with fewer cards for my money. Hm.

The article ends with the news that a new element of R&D is being formed to focus solely on the actual gameplay environments such as Standard and Draft, in the hope of not causing any bad seasons as seems to be happening right now.

It’s always good to see these sorts of articles, and I have nothing but gratitude and admiration for the guys at Wizards for being so communicative with their audience. It sounds like things are being shaken up mainly for Draft, but the two-year Standard (eight sets, total) is being retained after the feedback last year. I’m primarily interested in Magic for the theme and the worldbuilding, of course, so I’m much more interested in what this means for those aspects. It sounds like it will allow for greater flexibility to tell stories, as they can have one, two or three sets taking place on a particular plane, which can only be good for us, the players! The return of core sets could be great, so overall, I’m excited to see where we’re going next!

Assassinorum Execution Force

Hey everybody!
It’s time for game day here at spalanz.com, and today I’m taking a look at a boardgame from Games Workshop that I’ve had hanging about for roughly two years, but only recently have gotten round to the building of all the minis in there. It’s time to assassinate some Chaos renegades!

Assassinorum Execution Force

Assassinorum Execution Force came out in 2015, and was the first actual boardgame Games Workshop had put out in a number of years. The game comes with a number of repackaged miniatures from the Chaos Space Marines range of Warhammer 40k, and four of the Officio Assassinorum assassin models that, up until fairly recently, couldn’t be found anywhere outside of this box/ebay. The Chaos models are primarily cultists, but also include three push-fit marines, and a Sorcerer Lord. There are obviously some other bits and pieces necessary for the game, all of which can be seen in the video I made back when I first got my hands on this thing:

So the object of the game is for the four assassins to stop an evil ritual the Chaos Sorcerer Lord Drask is trying to complete, by discovering a teleportation room within the Astropathic Sanctum (the main board) to travel to the Temple of Shades and then fight him. There is a 15-turn clock on the execution force, and if this track ever reaches the 16th space, the ritual is completed and the assassins have lost.

Let’s take a look at the game pieces:

Assassinorum Execution Force

The models are pretty old for the Chaos forces, and have some pretty awful mouldlines on them. In the interests of speed, I only properly cleaned the Sorcerer and the three marines, with the cultists just clipped off the sprue and pushed together. The assassins, however, are quite beautiful models, and definitely deserve some attention. I’m thinking I might leave the majority of these minis unpainted, although the assassins do really cry out for a bit of attention, so I might get round to those soon enough…

Assassinorum Execution Force

The board is beautifully illustrated, and shows the dark corridors of the astropathic sanctum that feel quite claustrophobic when you start playing. The thick red lines across the terrain denote walls that really serve to limit line of sight and movement, and it didn’t take long to really get into the theme of the game as you cautiously position the assassins for maximum advantage!

All of the Chaos forces are referred to as Renegades throughout the game, and move along an AI system that is actually quite hilarious at times. All over the board, there are small red arrows that denote how a Renegade will move, several of which have options between 1-6 for which you throw a dice. I think the idea is that no two paths will ever be exactly the same, but it can lead to models almost pacing up and down like some kind of Beefeater sentry, or just meandering around in a circular path. There are some great rules that determine how and when the Renegades notice the assassins, however, and while they can seem a bit fiddly at first (there are three pages in the rulebook devoted to this, including illustrations and flowcharts), it actually becomes quite straightforward over the course of the game and, while I might not call it intuitive, it’s nevertheless easy enough to deal with.

Assassinorum Execution Force

So the mission is kinda split into two sections: find the teleportation chamber within the astropathic sanctum, then teleport to the Temple of Shades for the showdown with Lord Drask. There are a number of sections across the board that have a light shading to them: these denote empty rooms that are placed from a Room deck onto the board whenever an assassin has line of sight to the space. A Chaos star on the room (like that one above) instructs you to place a cultist on there, though that cultist cannot act this turn. To counteract the random element of placing rooms that may be the teleportation chamber within the first turn or two, you actually draw a number of tiles indicated on the board, and pick the lowest-numbered tile (such as tile 2 in the above photo). While the teleportarium itself is tile 5, you need to spend a turn to activate it, which is done through tile 11, the control bank. So out of 12 tiles in total, it’s going to be a while before you can actually move to the Temple of Shades. Nice!

Assassinorum Execution Force

While you move around the board, you’ll inevitably end up fighting the Renegades. The combat system is actually really straightforward, and I was surprised there wasn’t much more to it. If you have line of sight and are within 6 squares of a Renegade, then you can shoot using whatever weapon is listed on your assassin’s card – in the Eversor’s case, he has his Executioner Pistol, which rolls two dice (the red blobs). The highest result is chosen from the dice rolls, and compared with the target’s Resilience. If the hit equals or exceeds the Resilience value, then that target takes a wound. If he has wounds equal or in excess of his Stamina, then he is killed. So in the above example, the Eversor has rolled a 4, which equals the cultist’s Stamina, so the cultist is removed as a casualty.

Assassins have a range of five actions they can take, but can only perform two on each activation. However, each also has special rules on the reverse of their card that can allow them to take extra actions, or perform the same action twice.

Once all four assassins have activated, it’s the Chaos phase. During this phase, the familiar miniature moves one space on the Temple board (that ritual track mentioned earlier), then a number of Event cards are drawn equal to 1 plus however many cultists are On Alert (more shortly), up to a maximum of four cards. These cards range across a variety of awful things, from global buffs to the Renegades, to deploying more Renegades such as the Chaos Space Marines!

The Renegades all then move along their pre-allotted paths determined by the board as mentioned earlier. All Renegades are generally said to be On Patrol, but if a model was just placed on the board as the result of a room being revealed in the previous assassins phase, he won’t activate until the next round. Any Renegades that have seen an assassin within their line of sight will go On Alert, as will any who were within 6 squares of an attack by an assassin in the previous phase. These Renegades will move towards the nearest assassin, and either shoot or fight it as necessary. All assassins only have two hit points before they’re out, though all can attempt to heal in the next turn (and the Eversor can ignore wounds on a 5+ anyway).

Assassinorum Execution Force

The game progresses back and forth like this while the assassins search for the control bank, then move to the teleportarium and swoop in to attack Lord Drask at his dastardly ritual. Lord Drask is a 3HP model, with some pretty horrible attacks. However, in my introductory game I managed to defeat him by the Culexus assassin getting a hit thanks to the animus speculum, then the Vindicare assassin using his deadshot ability to score two hits at +2 to the dice roll if he hasn’t moved this turn. Pretty decent, in the end! However, the Callidus assassin was offered up as a sacrifice in order to ensure the sorcerer lord didn’t target the Vindicare, beating the poor shapeshifting assassin with his force stave.

Operation Deathblow was a success!

Assassinorum Execution Force

This was a really enjoyable game, with a pretty straightforward AI for the Chaos Renegades, and a lot of tactical depth for how to deploy the assassins each turn. It didn’t take long to learn, so I wasn’t glued to the rulebook for the entire game, though some things did obviously require reference when they cropped up.

Each of the assassins also has a pair of Talents, which can be used by spending tokens throughout the game. I found myself hording these for the most part, and only expending them during the final battle, however they do seem to be quite useful, such as the Culexus’ psyk-out grenade that can stun the Renegades but actually wound the sorcerer, or the Eversor’s frenzon that allows him to perform an extra action as mentioned. I might try again soon with using these a bit more often to see how effective they can be throughout the game.

While replayability is often an issue with a variety of games, Assassinorum: Execution Force has a sort of built-in mechanism to entice players to once more go up against the sorcerer lord, through the Achievements on the last page. I mentioned Operation Deathblow above; this is the first in a group of ten achievements that rewards you for just completing the game. Other achievements include using only a single assassin all game, or only a single assassin for the final battle, or leaving no models alive on the astropathic sanctum board. GW has also published twelve more achievements, such as limiting your assassins to 1HP, or each assassin only being able to heal once for the whole game. (Without knowing it, then, I also managed to achieve the “Right Between the Eyes” achievement in my first playthrough, having the Vindicare use his deadshot ability to finally kill Lord Drask!).

Tired of playing against the sorcerer lord? How about trying out the game against Lord Drask once he has ascended as a Demon Prince?! These rules give Drask an extra HP, and allow him to shoot any assassin within the Temple of Shades with his Warp Gaze, regardless of walls!

Further, the new-look September 2016 White Dwarf also provided rules for all four of the Chaos Demons types to replace the cultists. These rules are actually really nice, and it’s a shame that, to date, they haven’t been made available online. Demons don’t have any ranged weapons, so only fight the assassins when they are adjacent to them, but they can be quite deadly in doing so! When it comes time to confront Lord Drask in the Temple of Shades, these demons are upgraded to one of either a Champion, Standard Bearer or Hornblower, which gives them area-affect powers or additional HP. As if that weren’t enough, this issue of White Dwarf also featured nine further achievements that work specifically with the demon rules.

Assassinorum: Execution Force is a real blast to play, and while it has now disappeared from the webstore, I still nurture some hope that we might get some rules for protagonists other than the assassins to go up against the denizens of Chaos. Though I guess that might be covered by Overkill…

Kickstarter Burnout?

Last week, I read this really insightful article on the place of Kickstarter games in today’s gaming culture, and was inspired to take a look at my own experiences and opinions on the pre-order system for today’s game day blog.

Now, I’m not exactly a kickstarter expert, although I have backed a modest number of such things over the years. A quick look at my boardgamegeek collection shows a total of 5:
Fallen
Ghostbusters
Journey: Wrath of Demons
Lagoon
Shadows of Brimstone

Along with 4 previously owned:
Blood Rage
Draco Magi
Nova Cry
Red Dragon Inn 4
(Additionally, I’ve bought games like Thunderbirds and Xenoshyft: Onslaught after the kickstarter backing period, though both of these games have since been sold on).

I’ve talked about quite a few of these games on my blog over the years, as it happens, and I’m still intending to feature Shadows of Brimstone at some point in the not-too-distant future (maybe when I eventually get everything that I paid for…) Looking at this list, however, after reading the article from The Opinionated Gamers, has made me think about my history with Kickstarter in general, from the heady days of 2013 when I was chomping at the bit for games like Fallen and Shadows of Brimstone. In particular, it’s made me consider how I feel about the system these days.

My brief history
So I actually used Kickstarter originally to support Christopher West, who made a lot of the maps for the Star Wars Miniatures game. I think I bought four of his map packs in total, and they were really nice, solid products that I was happy to include within my game collection. At the time, I wasn’t playing a massive amount of board games, having recently split up from my ex (who had initially introduced me to tabletop games like Carcassonne). I bought the maps, used them a couple of times, then slowly moved away from SWM anyway.

Then, somehow, I discovered Slugfest Games were making a fourth Red Dragon Inn game via Kickstarter, and so returned to the site to check it out. I think I managed to get in at the very end of the campaign, but still got all of the nice exclusive drinks and stuff. Score one for me!

It was RDI4 that seemed to set me off the rails, though, as I would browse KS for other tabletop games similar to those old stalwarts of my collection such as Runebound, and it was with no small measure of excitement that I discovered Fallen. There are a lot of issues with the company here, which I won’t get into now, but Fallen itself is actually a really good game. It has beautiful art, and plays fairly straightforwardly, though is really quite the immersive experience. Definitely a good card game.

Fallen

Over the months, I backed a series of other, progressively bigger games, including the behemoth that is Shadows of Brimstone. I’ve talked about this game extensively on my blog already, though still haven’t managed to do an actual game day blog on it. At any rate, you may already know that I dropped thousands of dollars on the game (I’m actually in it!) and yet, once the core games were delivered, I was distinctly underwhelmed. With the arrival of games like Blood Rage and Journey, I began to re-evaluate my relationship with Kickstarter and, while both these games have incredibly impressive miniatures, I found that there was a distinct lack of something to these games.

The Problem (I think)
The Opinionated Gamers talk about “the chrome” of these games, and the allure of the shiny, and I think this is a very valid point in this situation. A lot of successful games on Kickstarter have a lot of shiny parts. Be it the glossy fantasy art that graces the cards of Fallen, or the intricately sculpted miniatures in Journey, these games have gone all-in on their style. But how is the substance? Is it even there? Shadows of Brimstone uses a fairly simple game engine that Flying Frog Productions have used in pretty much all of their previous games, yet it has elements added on to make it slightly cumbersome. This is a bit of an exception, because by and large you know what you’re getting from FFP. Other games do feel a little bit hit and miss, and I think this could well be due to the home grown nature of Kickstarter games.

Journey Wrath of Demons

Take Journey: Wrath of Demons, for example. This is a co-op game where players have the option during combat of cleansing the soul of their demon opponent. It sounds like a really neat concept, and from what I remember of the couple of games I’ve played, it was quite interesting, but otherwise the game is the standard dungeon-crawl-style of game with an Oriental setting. Xenoshyft: Onslaught is a deck-building game where you buy cards and they go directly into your hand; otherwise, the game plays pretty much like Thunderstone. These games feel a bit like the designers came up with a cool idea during a game of something else, and decided to implement it on their own. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, but it does often feel like, once you’re past that shiny new mechanic, there isn’t really a great deal of substance underneath the game – certainly not enough to compete with those games from established publishers.

The Opinionated Gamers article also mentions playtesting as being more rigorous with established companies, though many Kickstarter games have the promise of “years of development and testing” and the like, and not just those from companies like FFP or CMoN. Being an optimist, I’m inclined to believe them, and I don’t think I’ve yet played a game that doesn’t feel playtested.

Of course, new companies using Kickstarter are – in my experience – more concerned with showing off their beautiful components for their games, and I think this is the major problem with a lot of these games, that they’re all about style over substance. Journey does look beautiful, down to its anatomically-correct bull miniatures, but the gameplay hasn’t been good enough to draw me into playing it any more since September 2015. I haven’t touched Shadows of Brimstone in two years, save to move the box into my closet. Once I’ve seen all of the shiny new stuff, I’m actually quite apathetic towards these games – largely because there isn’t much actual game there.

Ghostbusters board game Cryptozoic

Cryptozoic’s Ghostbusters game was actually pretty decent, with some flavourful mechanics that did actually engage me enough to play a campaign with it, and while I’ve hardly been playing it every weekend, that’s probably more to a shift in my gaming life recently towards fewer large-scale games. Of all of the Kickstarter games that I have, Ghostbusters is probably the only one I find myself wanting to play more of. Though I freely admit that’s probably as much down to my nostalgia for the franchise.

Nowadays
These days, I avoid Kickstarter like the plague. I usually blame my burnout on Shadows of Brimstone, the game that I spent over $2300 on, as the parts that I have so far received, three and a half years after the campaign ended, were distinctly sub-standard. Tony, my regular gaming buddy and the chap who often encouraged my Kickstarter excesses, has completely embraced it and, together with his partner Lee, has backed dozens of projects in recent years. All of these games tend to be miniatures-heavy, though all of them tend to be consigned to the bottom of his pile of games, in favour of stuff like Last Night on Earth and Lords of Waterdeep.

This seems to be the problem with KS games for me. They look amazing, but looks aren’t everything, and I doubt anybody would want to play a dull-as-hell game just because it looks so pretty. There needs to be more than just awesome models to keep you wanting to play it, and even if you feel you need to keep playing it to get your money’s worth (like me and Shadows of Brimstone, for a while!) it’s eventually going to wear on you.

At the top of this post, I mentioned that I previously owned 4 games that I had backed via Kickstarter, and have bought more at retail that I’ve since sold on as well. In addition to this, I’m actually considering off-loading Journey, though I’ll admit that I want to try it again before I do. I think this attitude towards these games does say a lot for my current view, at any rate. There just isn’t enough substance to a lot of these things to make me want to keep them, despite the amount of money I spent in backing them.

I did back the second Ghostbusters game Cryptozoic put out last year, and am cautiously awaiting its delivery, but right now, I think I’m done with Kickstarter. I think I’m just not that interested in pledging my support for a game that is essentially something I already have, just with a couple of minor tweaks and a re-skin. I think I have enough games already, and I’m not really keen on adding more, even if they do come with a myriad of associated micro-expansion “KS Exclusive!” miniatures…

Breya 2.0

Hey everybody!
It’s time for another game day blog here at spalanz.com, and I’m sticking with Magic for the moment, as I’m riding the wave of where my interest lies for the time being. Today, I wanted to talk about my attempts to change up the Breya Commander deck that I picked up a short while ago!

Breya, Etherium Shaper

Breya is an artifact creature who makes thopter tokens on her entry into the battlefield, but her abilities are a bit of a blend of the colours she represents, which does leave her feeling like a bit of a hodge-podge of stuff. That said, having an artifact creature commander does lend itself to artifact tribal, so I’ve tried to go more in that side of things. Because she makes thopters on entry into the battlefield, I thought it might be nice to flicker her in and out, though of course in Commander now you can always have your general available in the Command Zone if need be, so it’s not a huge thing to have to flicker her. I’ve got a number of other creatures who also do things when they enter the battlefield, though, so that the flicker cards shouldn’t be wasted. Something that I do enjoy is the amount of cool Kaladesh cards that are relevant to this deck, namely the Master Trinketeer that gives thopters +1/+1, which should help, and also Padeem, who will give all my artifacts Hexproof. They’ll still die to boardwipes of course, so I probably need to look into making them Indestructible as well, but that’ll be for another day…

Something that has kinda happened to this deck as I evolved it was the addition of quite a number of expensive cards – expensive for me, that is! I’m definitely a budget-focused guy, and if I’m paying more than £5 for one card, it really needs to be a specific card that I’ve wanted. However, I started on the slippery slope by getting a copy of Ashnod’s Altar, which I mentioned back in the original blog post when I picked this deck up, and have kinda gone on from there, really! I’ve never played with Sensei’s Divining Top, but a lot of folks (particularly the Command Zone podcast, which is what got me started on this whole thing!) talk about it being a crucial card, so I eventually bit that bullet and picked up a copy for around £12. I’ve also been adding in a few cards that I’ve luckily had hanging about from various booster pulls and the like, including Ghostly Prison, Serum Visions, Phyrexian Arena… Something that I’d noted about the deck was how exciting it was to have these “classic” cards like Skullclamp, so it’s again keeping in with the theme of the deck there.

However, I’ve decided to make these additions to the deck based on a couple of strong limitations: all the cards must be printed in the “new”, post-M15 Modern card frame; and if anything produces or references colourless mana, it must show the actual colourless mana symbol. Aesthetics are very important to me, and for a format like Commander, which emphasizes self-expression, I think it’s important to let these sorts of things come through. Of course, it’s a limitation in some respects, but there are still a hell of a lot of cards available for the deck to use – for the card frame stipulation, in addition to four blocks (nine individual sets) and two core sets, there have been three Masters sets, three Commander sets, five Duel Decks, and the Duel Decks and Planechase Anthologies. Amonkhet is also now a thing, and I’m evaluating a couple of things (those Monuments, for sure!) to add in, as well. Of course, the colourless mana symbol is more of a sticking-point, as there are a couple of things I’d like to include but have stopped myself doing so, but overall I feel spoilt for choice here anyway, so I’m sure it’s all good!!

As a side note, I’ve also swapped out all of the lands, for land art that I actually prefer. Again, it’s all about the aesthetics. I’ve currently got all of the Ravnica bounce lands in the deck, which originally caused me problems as I didn’t have enough good lands to bounce; I’ve since put in the recent common dual lands to try and get more variety there. However, between these and the tri-lands, the deck can potentially be very slow, as there are lands coming into play tapped, some of which are then bounced back to my hand. I’ve been thinking about swapping out the dual lands for the Khans duals, as I’d at least gain life when they enter the battlefield, but so far haven’t gone in for all that.

There are still plenty of cards that I’m thinking of including, and I’m sure I’ll be adjusting the deck for a long time time come yet, but for now, here’s how my beautiful cyborg commander is looking – enjoy!

Breya, Etherium Shaper

Creatures
Silas Renn, Seeker Adept
Hanna, Ship’s Navigator
Sydri, Galvanic Genius
Padeem, Consul of Innovation
Sharuum the Hegemon
Baleful Strix
Cataclysmic Gearhulk
Chief Engineer
Chief of the Foundry
Combustible Gearhulk
Contraband Kingpin
Enigma Sphinx
Etherium Sculptor
Filigree Angel
Foundry Inspector
Magus of the Wheel
Master of Etherium
Master Trinketeer
Noxious Gearhulk
Psychosis Crawler
Reclusive Artificer
Restoration Gearsmith
Sanctum Gargoyle
Shimmer Myr
Solemn Simulacrum
Soul of New Phyrexia
Sphinx Summoner
Thopter Engineer
Vedalken Engineer
War Priest of Thune
Workshop Assistant

Planeswalker
Kaya, Ghost Assassin
Tezzeret the Seeker

Artifacts
Armillary Sphere
Ashnod’s Altar
Blade of Selves
Commander’s Sphere
Conqueror’s Flail
Cranial Plating
Hero’s Blade
Inventor’s Goggles
Lightning Greaves
Orbs of Warding
Sensei’s Divining Top
Skullclamp
Sol Ring
Swiftfoot Boots
Whispersilk Cloak
Worn Powerstone

Instants & Sorceries
Artificer’s Epiphany
Ghostly Flicker
Trash for Treasure
Whipflare
Serum Visions

Enchantments
Ensoul Artifact
Phyrexian Arena
Ghostly Prison
Pia’s Revolution
Thopter Spy Network
Propaganda
Efficient Construction

Land
3x Plains
3x Mountains
3x Swamps
3x Islands
Arcane Sanctum
Ash Barrens
Azorius Chancery
Boros Garrison
Buried Ruin
Cinder Barrens
Command Tower
Crumbing Necropolis
Dimir Aqueduct
Evolving Wilds
Grand Coliseum
Highland Lake
Holdout Settlement
Inventors’ Fair
Izzet Boilerworks
Meandering River
Mishra’s Factory
Mystic Monastery
Nomad Outpost
Orzhov Basilica
Rakdos Carnarium
Shimmering Grotto
Stone Quarry
Submerged Boneyard
Temple of the False God
Terramorphic Expanse

So that’s how it stands right now! Will Hour of Devastation see any changes? How about the upcoming Archenemy decks? I guess we’ll have to see!!