Deck building in Middle Earth

Following on from yesterday’s post about my recent adventures in the shadow of Mordor, I thought I’d continue in that vein a little longer and waffle about my decks that I had built for the game, and share some observations on their performance, etc. I know that Lord of the Rings LCG isn’t a competitive game, and so it can seem a bit like it relies more on personal choice as to what you include in your deck, but nevertheless, I find this kind of thing interesting!

Both decks are tri-sphere, and so resource matching can be horrendous to manage at times! The first deck involves Aragorn (leadership), Legolas (tactics), and Glorfindel (spirit). I’ve got two attachments in the deck that go on Aragorn to give him the spirit and tactics icons, to help smooth that out, and there’s another attachment I’ve given to him that gives an extra resource each round. Nevertheless, it can be very tricky at times to get this moving in the right direction.

In a way, I do feel as though the resource match rule is the most punishing aspect of this game, as you need a total match, it’s not like the Star Wars LCG, where at least one resource needs to come from the relevant faction. Cards like Haldir, for instance, aren’t coming out until turn 4, whereas the encounter deck is at you straightaway, turn 1. I do often think about trying to implement a house rule of using the Star Wars matching system, but I think that could bring its own problems. The alternative that has also crossed my mind is having at least one free pass/starting with more than one resource token per hero when playing a tri-sphere deck.

Anyway, it’s beginning to sound like I’m complaining about the game, but this is a blog post about deck building!

Up until about 18 months ago, I played this game exclusively solo, with one deck of three heroes. However, since playing with two decks has opened up the multiplayer co-op aspect so much, I don’t think I’d ever go back! However, I think I’m still in that former mindset with using tri-sphere, and should probably think about shifting things around so that the two spirit heroes are together, and the two tactics heroes are together. Making decks dual-sphere decks are a lot easier to manage, of course, but I think that would potentially open up an issue as regards how the encounter deck targets the first player in the Vengeance of Mordor cycle.

See, having a good range of Ranged and Sentinel characters on both sides means (in theory, at least!) that I can attack and defend from both decks, no matter where the attacks are coming from. This is something that took me a while to get to grips with, if I’m honest, as the single deck approach meant those keywords were meaningless for me for so many years. As they tend to be in specific spheres, too, it would need careful planning to rearrange the decks, so for now I’m just plodding on!

In my Faramir deck, I have a spread of Song cards, the original Mirkwood Songs that grant different icons to the heroes they’re attached to. Now, invariably in this game, you’ll draw cards for the wrong hero, leaving one stuck with most of the tokens because you’re not drawing anything they can play. Perfect target for a Song, normally! I found it interesting in my last game, though, that no good target really presented himself, because I was drawing a good spread of cards so was managing fine – the best use I could put these Songs to was discarding for travel effects!

I suppose this is the interesting thing about this sort of card game, though. Due to shuffling your deck, your cards are randomised, so you never really know what you’re going to get next. Obvious, I know, but in practice this can mean you draw really well, or you only draw event cards whose triggers just aren’t coming up. Or you only draw leadership cards, meaning you end up with the Bank of Legolas or something.

This is why “search your deck” effects can be so useful, as not only do you have the chance to go look for exactly what you need, but you also (usually!) have to shuffle your deck afterwards. Any additional shuffle is usually very useful, I find – regardless of the fact that most of the game is often down to luck of the draw, it just feels good to shuffle your deck when you’re not drawing anything useful, because it feels like you’re going to change the game. Regardless of the fact that Galadhrim’s Greeting might well have been the next card you were going to draw, anyway!!

So, heroes having multiple spheres is very useful, the Ranged and Sentinel keywords are very useful, and being able to search for specific cards is very useful. The fourth “pillar” to all of this is, of course, getting multiple uses out of your characters, particularly heroes. Aragorn has this ability natively, of course, where you can pay one resource from his pool to ready him when he has committed to the quest. Given his all-round great stats, plus Sentinel, makes this really useful, but it does assume that you have the resources to pay for it. Light of Valinor is just made for Glorfindel, as it means the guy doesn’t exhaust to quest in the first place. Stuff like Leather Boots, which allow the attached to character to ready when a certain card is revealed from the encounter deck, is also really good, although somewhat situational. I mean, if Faramir has his boots on, and only enemies come out of the deck, you’re stuck with a Ranger character who can’t do anything to help out.

The gold standard in these types of cards is, of course, Unexpected Courage, which allows you to ready the attached hero, regardless of what has happened. I’m not sure a character can defend, then attack back, all that often, but this allows you to do that. (As another side note about the rules in general, I don’t understand why characters have to throw themselves in the line of fire without getting to retaliate. There should either be a kind of simultaneous combat, or a rule that allows a defender, if he survives the attack, to attack back before attackers are declared properly. But maybe that would skew things too much, as well).

The final subset of cards worth mentioning is not that well-represented in these decks, but I would say is still fairly important – the ‘cancel’ effect cards, and other generally playing-outside-the-rules. So cards such as A Test of Will, which cancels the when revealed effect of a card from the encounter deck, or the lore events that ignore the threat of a location or an enemy in the staging area, giving you some questing room. Direct damage cards are also useful, as they bypass the need for engaging enemies, though obviously there are Dúnedain cards that want you to be engaged. Tactics has a variety of cards that allow you to directly attack an enemy, which used to confuse me a bit because I thought I was engaging those enemies as well. Nope. Hands Upon the Bow, for example, let’s you attack someone at +1 to that attack, without the need for enduring an attack coming from that enemy first. It’s a really powerful effect, especially on a heavy-hitting hero tooled up with something like a Rivendell Blade, which reduces the defence on that enemy.

With all of these card types to take into account, along with a sprinkling of buffs and other one-time events, it’s no wonder I’m enjoying the game much more since I stopped playing just the one deck! In all honesty, playing two-handed has almost been like learning how to play the game anew, but it’s been really quite a great experience to see all of these effects and combos come out as I’ve done so! There will always be bad hands drawn, even after a mulligan, but sometimes, you get to draw Light of Valinor for Glorfindel in your opening hand three games in a row. And that, my friends, is glorious!!

A Shadow in the East

Hey everybody,
Today’s blog is perhaps unsurprisingly taking us into Middle Earth, following on from last week’s exciting discussion of new decks for the game! I’m currently investigating the later cycles for the game, having pretty much stopped playing the game regularly during the fourth cycle, The Voice of Isengard. So, even though this expansion was released back in 2018, it’s new to me!

A Shadow in the East starts off when the heroes are resting in Dale, after the previous cycle’s adventures had concluded. Envoys from Dorwinion, in the east, arrive with news of spreading darkness – disappearances, mainly, but with no army for defence, the people have turned to King Brand for aid. The heroes volunteer for the mission, and off we go!

The first scenario, The River Running, reminds me a great deal of the first scenario from The Voice of Isengard – being relentlessly pursued by enemies, this time, Easterlings. We have a tremendous amount of pressure exerted through the Objective card, which forces the arrival of more enemies every third round. Coupled with this is a set-aside Side Quest, and the annoying number of Treachery cards which, for this scenario, function as attachments for enemies! Don’t get me wrong, I like that mechanic, and was surprised it took so long to be implemented in the game, but even so, it does make things so much more difficult!!

Assuming that we make it out alive, our next task is to head for the city of Dorwinion, built on the shores of the sea of Rhûn. Here, we learn that people have been disappearing, so we head out into the city to investigate.

Danger in Dorwinion is the second scenario, and bears a striking resemblance to the first scenario from the Against the Shadow cycle, The Steward’s Fear. We’re running round a city, ferreting out a cult; we have a random cultist enemy to defeat, and a random objective revealed to affect the game. It’s almost like being back in the realm of Gondor!

This scenario plays greatly around the threat level, and everything coalesces really quite catastrophically for the heroes, the way that the encounter deck just keeps on raising the threat. I actually lost half of the team when the Faramir/Dúnhere/Elladan side threated-out.

If we’re able to survive, one of the cultist prisoners tells us that cityfolk have been taken to a hidden temple in the Hills of Rhûn, and so we March onwards!

The Temple of Doom concludes the deluxe expansion, and is interesting to me in that it was complicated in terms of how it shakes up the main rules, but didn’t feel impossible like some third scenarios can be. We have a quest deck where each stage goes into the victory display upon completion; the number of stages there informs the threat level of the boss, Thane Ulchor, who cannot be defeated until there are 4 stages in the victory display, and there’s a side quest that cannot be completed until Thane Ulchor has 0HP left, at which point we win. That side quest is working against us though, as every fourth round it’ll force us to draw from the Power of Mordor deck; we have another boss, the Tower of Barad-Dur location (which can never be traveled to, and reduces the threat elimination level by 5), and three obnoxious objectives. With just five cards in the deck, the maths-savvy among us will realise that this means we have 23 rounds to defeat the whole thing (if you cannot draw from the Power of Mordor deck, you lose). But there are also other effects going on that will speed this up – yikes!

For all of the complicated goings-on here, it wasn’t particularly bad to play through, as the encounter deck is predominantly location cards and treacheries, and both decks I was using to play have got significant willpower output when I get them going, which has happened really quite well so far in this play-through! Regularly throwing out 20+ willpower for the quest, with numerous ways to re-use heroes for combat as well, has meant that it was fairly okay. I’m not trying to call it easy, far from it, but it didn’t feel that bad.

I wonder if I would find some of the earlier quests easier with these decks, as they benefit from the entirety of the card pool…

Story-wise, we have an unexpected call-back to an earlier villain (is it a spoiler if we’re over 4 years since this came out?) and we seem to be firmly in Sauron-country for the foreseeable future. There is a definite Against the Shadow feel to this cycle so far, so I’m intrigued as to where the story is going to take us as we move further into the cycle.

Difficulty ratings are not really something that you can really trust, yet I was still surprised that Danger in Dorwinion only merited a 5, when I was just one round from losing. True, I’ve lost to Passage through Mirkwood before now, and that rating is 1, but even so, this feels much more difficult than The Dead Marshes, but both have the same difficulty! Interestingly, it also shares that rating with The Steward’s Fear. But perhaps there’s a perceived ease about The Dead Marshes, as I’ve played that scenario quite a lot now.

This kinda brings me on to the next point, anyway. These later quests really don’t feel like the same game as those earlier ones. Maybe I’m just too struck on the Shadows of Mirkwood cycle, but I do have incredible nostalgia for that one, and there feels like too much going on in these later quests to really give the same sort of feeling. I can’t quite describe it, but I much prefer my hundredth run through Emyn Muil, say, than these new things. Maybe I’m just becoming a grouchy old man…

For all that, though, I am really enjoying finally getting to see what the later quests are all about. They’re often difficult, with a lot to keep track of, but it’s good to play them all the same. I don’t think I’m going to be in for an easy time of it, however, as I head into the cycle itself!

Throwback Thursday

I don’t normally get into this sort of thing, but for a variety of reasons I felt the need to do so today! I think talking about a return to Age of Sigmar yesterday, more broadly about Fantasy in general, has put me in the mood, somewhat.

When playing Warhammer Invasion, I would almost always play as Chaos, and it’s a faction that I really enjoy a great deal. When it came to the miniatures, though, it took a lot longer for me to fall in with the ruinous powers. I’ve recently begun to work with some gusto on the Khorne Bloodbound models as a second army for Age of Sigmar, and I’m also still chipping away at the Black Legion for 40k. So I’m definitely feeling Chaotic at the current time!

The models tend to be absolutely beautiful though, whether it’s in the baroque majesty of the Khornate armour, or the lithe beauty of Slaanesh Hedonites. Which reminds me, I’ve got some of those mortal units still boxed up somewhere…

For me, there is a definite appeal to the Fantasy miniatures, I think mainly due to the fact that it was Warhammer Fantasy that initially got me into this mess. True, I never played the game, but there’s a lovely sense of nostalgia attached to these things, for me. I’m not about to do a complete 180 and throw my lot fully into AoS, especially because most of my gaming buddies are more 40k-centric. But I’m definitely leaning into the fantasy setting once again. And with stuff like Warcry and Warhammer Underworlds, it’s hard to stay away from the mortal realms!!

Ghostbusters II: the board game

Following on from last week’s look at the two Ghostbusters games that were published by Cryptozoic, I have perhaps inevitably delved into the second box for today’s game day blog, as I’ve not yet tried this one out for size.

Ghostbusters II is all about slime, of course, and that’s no different here. The new game, and all of its expansions, all feature mood slime quite heavily, and that is, I think, the biggest difference between the two games. At their core, of course, they are the same game, but the second box has a number of additions that I thought I’d talk through today, as a sort of compare/contrast.

Slime is big, then, and this affects the game through Goo Piles – tokens that are placed on the board, and that need to be investigated throughout the course of the scenario. Each scenario has a Goo Timer along the bottom, which is basically the timer that ticks down each round as you can imagine. Investigating Goo Piles will increase the timer, however, buying you time to complete the scenario.

When you investigate the Goo Pile, you get to draw from the Goo Pile Deck – another new thing. This deck is mainly made up of cards that will instruct you to either draw from an event card pile, or an equipment card pile. Equipment is stuff that you can use, while Events are additional challenges to overcome.

There are new Ghost types in this game, called Plazms. These are denoted by pink miniatures, while the Ghosts are purple. Combat works the same as previously, in that you roll a d6 and compare it with the Entity’s to-hit value, then consult the card to see what happens if you hit or if you miss. The big, big switch up here though is that the Ghostbusters themselves now come in two varieties, regular proton packs, and the new slime blower version. Ghosts are not affected by slime, and Plazms are not affected by proton packs, so you need to plan accordingly! However, a character can spend an action to swap an adjacent buster’s pack between the two (or you can spend both action slots to do it for yourself).

Really, then, that’s all there is to it! We’ve got a raft of different ghosts, we’ve got goo and plazms, and we’ve got event and equipment cards. It does make for a bit more of a hectic experience, I think, but it’s still the same basic game underneath. Which is good, I think, because it means that you can throw the dice and have some fun, while playing as the iconic ghostbusters!

The Kickstarter version that I have does come with a bunch of extra stuff, but unlike the first game, this time a lot of the “base game” is actually really quite varied, and there isn’t a tremendous amount of “important” stuff left out this time. Of course, the deluxe edition does incorporate the Louis Tully expansion, which I’m not a huge fan of because I’m one of these people who prefers to keep things separate so that I know what I’m playing. It’s not a massive problem, but it niggles a little. The actual KS exclusives this time are some fairly niche additional ghostbusters from the Extreme Ghostbusters cartoon, which doesn’t seem particularly inspired, and sadly the KS campaign never made it to $850k to give us Dana Barrett, but she’s probably the only major movie character missing from both games.

Ghostbusters II is an interesting development from the first game, with some nice additions in the way that the event and equipment cards are implemented. With the added considerations of different entities needing different combat styles (proton vs slime), it definitely feels like the gameplay steps up. The fact that we have all the new ghosts, which include the Haunted Humans toy line, is just great, and definitely taps into the nostalgia factor for me.

It’s still a fairly light game, and with the timer element it can be over very quickly. If you like Ghostbusters, if you liked the first game, and/or if you’re a child of the 80s like me, then it’s all good really!

Lord of the Rings LCG: the road goes ever on

After yesterday’s blog where I decided that I wanted to play some Lord of the Rings LCG again, I did in fact get a game in with the first scenario from A Shadow in the East, The River Running. I was using two of my favourite decks to attempt the scenario, elves (headed by Legolas, Elrond and Glorfindel) and dwarves (Daín Ironfoot, Ori and Óin). These decks have been used for many years as I took on a variety of quests from early in the game’s run, always to quite magnificent results. The dwarf deck is something of a powerhouse when it gets going, thanks to the fact that dwarves as a theme have been so well-explored as a deck type. The elves do sometimes need a bit more planning, but the deck is still quite successful. Together, I thought they’d be tremendous!

Well, that was my first mistake. I think the reliance on cards from comparatively early in the game, when playing scenarios from the eighth and final cycle really showed how far things had come along! Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of cards from the core set that have retained their power throughout the whole life of the game, and thanks to my general confusion at times (it’s been almost a year since I last played!) I did manage to get through it in one piece!

But I’ve decided that I want to pretty much entirely redesign my decks, because there is a huge plethora of cards that I’m not using, and by sticking to themes so rigidly I’m missing out on too much. When I was building the two decks for my journey into Angmar, I took a wildly different approach to the norm, and it really paid off for me, I think.

I’ve therefore completely disassembled the dwarf deck ( which, in fairness, relied a lot on Underground/Mountain/Dark locations triggering effects, anyway), and the elf deck has been stripped down to be rebuilt with Aragorn in the mix. That’s right, original, core set Aragorn! Those old cards still have a lot of power, remember!

I like having him in a deck, even if his starting threat is pretty huge, though that is offset in a deck which also has the Spirit version of Glorfindel, because they still only start at 26 in total. I’ve got a lot of Spirit cards in the deck, but Aragorn has that stone attachment which also gives him specifically the Spirit icon, so it’s good that way.

I’ve pulled in cards from all across the history of the game, which is very exciting, so that I can get some interesting stuff going on – well, I hope it’s going to be interesting! One of the things that has surprised me with this deck is the extent to which I’m going to be able to buff willpower, but I’m hoping that it will be a good all-rounder, as the heroes have good attacking strength, too.

This deck is broadly still elves, then, with some more cards added in from the realms of men, to supplement Aragorn’s presence. I think I’ve tried, so far as possible, to have an equal spread among the three spheres. It’s something that I invariably struggle with in games of Lord of the Rings LCG, having one sphere where I either get no cards, or too many cards, so one hero ends up with all the resources because they don’t have anything to play.

I’ve tried to mitigate against that in my revamped Rohan deck, however, by using the full suite of Song cards to share out icons.

The major change to this deck came about when I decided to use the elf twins, Elladan and Elrohir, in some capacity. Elladan as a Tactics hero and Elrohir as a Spirit ally was running around my head, so the Rohan triumvirate of Dúnhere, Éomer and Theodred came to an end! But as with dwarves and elves before them, it had served me well! The original deck was dual-sphere, but I’ve decided to broaden things out with the addition of Faramir as a Lore hero. He brings with him the Gondor theme, as well as a bunch of interesting attachments. It’s another interesting, all-rounder deck, and I think it could be nice to run alongside the Aragorn deck to get a good Fellowship feel going!

At any rate, it felt like it was going to be A Task to build new decks for this game, but as it turned out, I’ve really enjoyed it! I think it’s definitely getting me excited for cracking on with the Vengeance of Mordor cycle, at any rate!! However, looking through the card pool has made me really nostalgic for the earlier quests

May Plans

Somehow, I’m on quite the blog-writing streak here at the minute, I think this is day 16 now, which is quite exciting! Amid all of the rambles, though, I feel like I need to get a bit more focused. I’m very much in a Star Wars mood at the moment, and combined with a return to board gaming, I seem to be moving away from what has been my main hobby for the last eight years now, miniature war games. I did touch on this on Friday, but I think I need to try to strike more of a balance, and see if I can keep up the games while also enjoying a bit more of the plastic hobby. I have the coming week off work (which is just as well, really, because I’m in the middle of some pretty intense training at the moment!) so thought it would perhaps be a good time to recalibrate, and whatnot.

So, to start with, I want to try to press on with the Black Legion bits that I’m in the middle of painting. I may have said this before, but I find it difficult to come back to projects when they’re halfway finished, so I do need to keep on with these guys before it’s another couple of years before they’re fully painted. I’m not going to go any further than this for the time being: I wouldn’t say that I’m in a hobby slump per se, but I’m definitely in that realm of feeling a bit overwhelmed with just how much I’ve got going on, so don’t want to plan ahead beyond the one immediate project for now!!

It’s no secret that I have a lot of armies on my plate, but in the last week I’ve started to take some action here, and have listed my Blood Angels on eBay to try and trim down. As it stands, I’m hoping to get around £100 for the lot, which would be nice, and traditionally I would almost immediately plough that back into Games Workshop’s coffers, but I’m hoping that I can be more circumspect this time around, and resist the allure of new shiny stuff. I still want to off-load more models, including my Nighthaunt, so hopefully I’ll be feeling a bit better about the hobby and stuff once I’ve cleared away some of the chaff. It’s amazing how much noise is in my head from the variety of projects that I have at the moment.

I’m very keen to give the new Kill Team a try – well, especially seeing as how it isn’t really “new” any more. This would kinda play into the Black Legion that I’ve been painting up as well, as I could start painting those models that were built up from the Nachmund set, though at this point I have quite a few sets of miniatures from which to draw – including AdMech and Genestealer Cults from the White Dwarf rules.

Unfortunately, nobody around here appears to be that into Kill Team right now, I think in part as a result of a general downer on 9th Edition 40k that seems to be led by the main group from my local GW. So it may be a bit of an uphill struggle on that one!

I do need to finish building the terrain from Nachmund though, at which point I may just try it out with me taking on both sides, just to see how the ruleset works. I may have a better chance of convincing people if I’ve got a better grasp of the rules!

So far, then, I don’t think my plans for the month are particularly onerous! Finish painting five/six models, build up some terrain, and maybe read over some campaign books!

Of course, I’m still really keen to play lots of other games that I own, and have been enjoying quite a variety of them in recent weeks. I’m still trying to convince Jemma that the Star Wars LCG is worth playing, and I’m still in the middle of the jungle in the Forgotten Age campaign, but I’ve recently also been thinking a lot about Lord of the Rings LCG. It’s widely been referred to on my blog here as my favourite game, and I think that holds true for the first couple of cycles of the game. But somewhere around the Voice of Isengard, I just lost interest due to the game becoming so incredibly difficult to play solo.

There are about six full cycles that I have not yet played, and last year I made an effort to change that, playing my way through The Lost Realm before once again getting distracted. Now, I have a vague memory of playing through the first three scenarios in the Angmar Awakened cycle as well, and even mentioned it here on the blog, but I didn’t record it on my BGG stats, and I don’t actually remember the scenarios themselves, either, so in confusion I’ve somewhat given up for the time being.

I still want to play this game, though, so I’m thinking that I’m going to go straight in for the final cycle of the game, the Vengeance of Mordor! This should be interesting, as from what I remember of it from promotional stuff at the time, we get to explore some fairly interesting aspects of Middle Earth, and we get something of a unique look at the world. So that’s pretty exciting! Although I may not be saying that when I’ve been beaten into submission by the scenario!

I’m hoping to get started with it while I’m off, anyway, so stay tuned for more updates there!!

Gaming Reflections

Hey everybody,
I’ve been thinking a lot recently about my gaming history, and my enjoyment of board games and stuff, and it has struck me how things have changed over the years as I’ve gone from one aspect to another. I think what prompted it was an idle look into my boardgamegeek stats, where I’m one of those gaming anoraks who like to log my plays with various games. My history there goes back to 2008, when I started playing games with my ex-girlfriend. She was the one who got me into it, with Carcassonne, and over the couple of years we were together we played a massive variety of board games. She was the one buying them, though, so the choices were pretty much entirely driven by what she wanted to play.

As time went on, I discovered games for myself (and bought a few that I remembered enjoying during those early years). I was probably into the heavy fantasy adventure boardgames at this time, like Runebound and Arkham Horror. Star Wars Miniatures was a huge thing for me during 2010, but I would never have considered myself a miniature wargamer prior to my getting into Warhammer Fantasy Battles in 2014, and almost immediately moving on to Warhammer 40k, starting a Necrons army late in that year.

In between, then, I was playing a lot of board games, and a lot of card games, such as Lord of the Rings LCG and the like. I discovered Rune Age quite early on, but didn’t really get into the deck-building game thing until a little later. It’s Rune Age, though, that has really prompted me to write this blog, as I’ve been thinking a lot about it as one of my all-time favourite games that hasn’t seen me play it for so long! I had a game last night, for the first time since November 2015, and it was just incredible to return to the game after so long!

Getting back into board games in general has been a product of playing Ticket to Ride Europe with my extended family back last September, and I began to blow the dust off some of the other bits and pieces that had been put away during my Warhammer years. Hellboy was a big one at the end of last year, of course, and after my wife suggesting we have more regular game nights last month, we’ve played quite a few things, like Elder Sign. She’s sticking with me on the Star Wars LCG, too, god love her, but I’m not convinced that she’s enjoying it as much as I am; I’m preparing for that to fall by the wayside once again very soon!

Playing games with Jemma has helped me to get back into some of the more regular gaming that I enjoy, though, as opposed to my non-gaming time being almost exclusively taken up with assembling, or painting little men.

Last week’s game day went a long way to recovering some more of that enjoyment, as well. Playing a new game, playing old favourites, it was great – even if we were both rusty with those old favourites! I think part of it is down to wanting a rest from the mess that comes with painting (and avoiding stabbing myself with the hobby knife!) but it’s also nice to have a boxed game that you take down from the shelf, get all the bits out and play it, and then put it away and it’s all nice and tidy again.

I’m flirting around things here, but let me come out right now and say this, I am categorically not getting out of Warhammer. Not only am I far too invested at this point, but I’m also still really into that world, and that game. 9th edition 40k has been a very weird time, for sure, and like a lot of folks, I think it’s been just odd how it was launched during a global pandemic where games were so difficult to get. Fair enough, it’s out there, and I have had games now, but there’s just something not quite sitting right with me for 9th, and I can’t quite put it into words.

I can’t decide whether it’s a genuine problem with the game, or whether it’s down to my somewhat lack of interest in the new 40k, but it seems to be getting out of hand a bit now, with the campaign books adding more rules bloat, and the White Dwarf articles giving more again, it feels like the game is getting unwieldy. I’m on the fence with it a bit, because I think if I were part of a regular gaming group, and we were playing regular games, then I imagine it would be a glorious sandbox time for us to play all manner of wonderful games that could be the stuff of gaming legend for years to come. However, I play fairly sporadically, so it’s not really of any use to me. When I do come to play though, I see references online to stuff that I need to try and track down, and then lose interest and just give up!

40k is definitely not just a hobby, but a way of life, and I’m certainly moving to the other side of the fence with that one right now. I used to be really into that whole side as well, but now I’m shrinking down my collection and trying to free up space (and money!) and trying to make it less of a chore for me.

Where I find myself right now is quite a nice spot, though. I’m offloading some of the extraneous noise to whittle my plastic addiction to just a core of stuff that I like, then I think I want to be a bit smarter with how I store things so that I’m not finding myself too overwhelmed by it all.

I have a fairly good core of my favourite board games still, so I think it’ll be good to keep hold of those, and actually enjoy them, rather than continually expanding. I’ve talked about Tony’s obsession with games a lot on the blog, but going round to his place last week was a real eye-opener, because he has a whole bedroom that is taken up with games storage. I mean, it’s quite startling, really. I was never that bad, but I think that speaks more to the kickstarter addiction than anything else. Having a massive chunk of game in one hit, rather than maybe a game with one expansion, is going to take a lot of storage space!

Where am I going with all of this ramble right now?

Well, I guess I am quite happy for the time being with how things are looking. I’m working to get 40k into balance with the other games that I like, and I’m working at rediscovering some of my old favourites, like Rune Age. I was in the loft yesterday, looking for something, and I came across a box with Dungeon Quest in it – and I was enraptured! I’d forgotten I even had that game! How amazing. (I also found my degree certificate, so it was quite a productive box, that!)

The fact that I mentioned the 40k hobby being a chore is a big one though, as it has become really quite cumbersome for me lately. It’s symptomatic of me as a gamer though, I suppose, because I like having variety and I am something of a collector; as such, I have thousands upon thousands of Magic cards, and I have too many 40k kits to be allowed. I suppose the former is much less of an issue than the latter, as it still takes up less combined space. I really don’t think I’ll ever be a one/two army guy, but I think I’m finally getting more streamlined!

It’s good to get things in balance, and I hope that I will continue to play the board and card games alongside enjoying the hobby and game of 40k, but I don’t want one to consume the other, as has been happening over the years. It’s nice to have a range of things to enjoy, after all!

Ghostbusters: the board game

Yesterday’s post, talking about the Ankh Kickstarter game, has got me thinking about my own (tiny) collection of Kickstarter games – tiny, since I sold most of my games off between house moves. I have the massive Hellboy of course, but somehow the Ghostbusters game always flies under the radar for me.

I’ve played the original game a long time ago, and I do remember enjoying it rather a great deal, but I’ve made just a single attempt to play it again since it was delivered back in 2016. There is a lot of content that remains completely unknown to me, and I think that’s really quite sad.

The second game arrived in 2017 and until this week, I hadn’t even popped the tokens. I remember feeling a bit bummed by the delivery of the second one, principally because of the sloppy way it was presented. Sure, the big white deluxe box is lovely, but those bags on either side of the box in the above Instagram photo are also expansions in the same mode as the Slimer box. It’s like Cryptozoic had started to package things, but then just gave up and shipped it.

I think seeing how CMON package Ankh and others as full game systems with the proper boxes etc really drew a significant contrast, for me!

The second box seems to be all about the goo, and most of the additional Kickstarter content also makes that connection. I’ve only given the game a couple of cursory once-over glances in the last few days, but I like the fact that the slime seems to be quite pervasive here, as it seems to draw the content together somehow. It’s a shame everything doesn’t fit into the box, but if we’d had the Lewis Tully expansion boxed separately, like Slimer, I think it would have easily all gone in together. Anyway, I need to let that point go!

The second box is stand alone, so has all the stuff you need like Spirit World tiles and so on. What I particularly like about this one is the variety of ghosts this time around – even the retail version, I believe, has more variety than the core retail set. We also get the awesome 80s toys like Granny Gruesome and Mail Fraud as minis! Shame the quarterback guy doesn’t get a model, but I suppose we can’t have everything.

I’ve read some pretty negative reviews of the second game though, which is sad really because I do love the theme and all, but it’s not going to put me off, seeing as how I have it all. As it’s co-op, as well, I might see if I can convince my wife to try it out with me, but she isn’t a fan of the source material at all, so I’m not sure how successful I would be there!

Between it all, I have the two games, then enough content for four clear expansions, plus the raft of Kickstarter exclusives from each campaign. I think that’s going to be plenty of stuff to keep me occupied for a long time yet!

I’ll no doubt be featuring the further ghost-busting adventures here in the future, so make sure to keep an eye out for that! I have a week off coming up, so hopefully I’ll be able to give this game another spin sooner rather than later!!

Game Day!

Hey everybody,

As you all know, Tuesday is game day, and this week it’s particularly exciting as I recently had an actual game day! First time in almost five years that my buddy Tony and I sat down to play some games together! Much fun and laughter was had, and we got some cracking games to the table as well!

First up is Ankh, the Egyptian gods themed game from Cool Mini Or Not. The game was put out on Kickstarter back in May 2020, and was successfully funded within the first day – no surprise, really, as that seems to be CMoN’s business model, and this game is designed by the renowned Eric Lang.

In Ankh, you take the role of one of the gods of Egypt, and compete with your fellow deities for control of the land, aiming to be the god to inspire the most devotion. The game runs on a pretty fast timer, so even though it’s one of these huge miniatures-heavy things, it actually feels pretty streamlined and very straightforward once you get into it. This is something that I was immediately impressed with, because it has so much potential for replays.

You get two actions per turn, which you choose from a set menu of four – move, summon, gain followers, or choose an Ankh power. You need to spend followers to gain these latter powers, but in doing so, you can potentially also gain Guardians, which act as additional figures in your pool from which you can summon. It’s going to be useful to have figures on the board, of course, because that’s how you gain your devotion points, through claiming territory and monuments.

The elegant timer system is built into the actions track – when an action has been taken so many times, it triggers an event, which may allow you to claim a monument, or split up a region, or trigger a conflict. Conflicts are resolved by counting up the miniatures that each player has in any region, each mini being worth 1 strength, then by playing cards to potentially add strength or kill off an opponent’s models, or even build a new monument. When the dust settles, you might end up in the lead in the devotion stakes.

It plays really, really well. We made a couple of errors, sure, but nothing too dramatic. On the whole, the engine is quite easy to pick up, and the fact that the meat of the game occurs during timed conflicts means that overall the game doesn’t feel bogged down, turn after turn. It won’t appeal to everyone, I know, but there is a real possibility for you to make of the game as much as you want – spending the turns between conflicts either strategising like a Field Marshal, or just going with the flow and enjoying the game as it unfolds. I mean, we were hardly obsessing over which actions to take, when to trigger events, etc, but it was hugely enjoyable regardless!

I’m fairly sure that we barely scratched the surface when we played the game, but it was definitely a good game, one that I think I’d like to play a lot more to get a handle on. It’s odd to think that there’s a Kickstarter game that I’ve said this about, as a lot of my experience with games like this does tend towards the once-and-done, but then I suppose CMoN are a bit different, as they’re a professional games company working with an established designer, and merely use KS as their marketing and distribution model. It’s debatable whether that’s what Kickstarter is meant for, of course, but it’s working for them, I guess! I think that my mental image of Kickstarter games goes back to the days when anybody and their dog was putting out games on the platform, and while some turned out quite beautiful, most did seem to be turkeys.

There are five gods in the core set, with multiple expansions that came out at the same time, some of which feature plenty more gods and guardians, and a plethora of other shiny bits. Of particular note is the fact that one of the Kickstarter perks was 3D monuments, but we were only using the core set so hadn’t delved too far into any of the other boxes. It’s a very exciting way to deliver a game, for sure, but there is still that part of me that longs for the days when you’d not see an expansion for a game like this until a year or so had passed! It was interesting, talking with Tony about it, how he just wanted to play something else from the massive collection that he and Lee have put together, but I would have been down for playing this one a couple more times! I remember, years ago, playing games like Last Night on Earth 4-5 times in a game day with my ex, and not really thinking twice. Sure, we’d also have days where we’d play two or three different games as well, but I think Tony is in that situation where he has so many board games that it needs that constant churn just to get through them all. It almost begs the question, what’s the point of having multiple expansions for a game you barely play enough of with the core set?!

In summary, then, I really like this game, and have thought about it a lot since we played it. I think it represents what I used to love about Kickstarter games, getting an absolute ton of content for a game and then being really excited about trying it all out. I think, if I hadn’t been in the middle of so many life-changing events at the time, I may well have backed this one at the time, but these things happen! I’m definitely looking forward to trying it out again sometime soon, whether Tony wants to or not! 🤣

Anyway…

We also had three games with Warhammer Invasion, which was amazing, as it was like a return to the old days! Me playing Chaos, him playing High Elves, with all their nonsense! I won all three games, but I think that was something of a fluke because I’d recently looked up the rules again, and had looked at my deck as well, while Tony hadn’t looked at his elves since we last played this game, in 2016!!

Rounding out the day were three games of Magic, which I also won. I think I was very lucky at one point though, as I was playing a somewhat modified version of my Shadows Over Innistrad vampires deck, and was land-flooded so was down to something like 4 life before I got my first creature out! However, once he came out, I buffed him stupid and gave him lifelink, which got me firmly back in the game for the win!!

I also took my Kaldheim deck out for a spin, which was fun, though I think it could do with quite a bit more tinkering! It worked well enough, for sure, but I think the theme has overshadowed the potential for the deck to work well. If I were still as into Magic as I used to be, I would probably set aside an afternoon to do some research, but I don’t really have those luxuries anymore!!

After all that, I then had another game of the Star Wars LCG with my wife, once again Rebels (me) vs Imperials (Jemma). I’d tried to mix the decks up a little, so that they were predominantly objectives from the core set and Hoth cycle, to try and keep things simple. As it happened, I won this game as well, but I do think this game can be quite swing-y in how it plays, where you might have some luck and get a lot of key units out so you can launch offensive after offensive. I didn’t have that last time, but I had it in spades this time, which kinda surprised me, I’m not gonna lie! Jemma did blow up two of my objectives, but I won when the dial was at 9, so it could have been worse!

I’m not entirely convinced that Jemma likes the game, but she does seem to want to keep at it, which is encouraging! I’m hoping that I’ll be able to convince her to keep playing, though I don’t think she’ll ever be a fan of it like me!!

The Scarlet Keys!

Folks, the build up is finally over, and we are indeed getting The Scarlet Keys as the next expansion for Arkham Horror LCG!

I’m very excited. I’m imagining this as quite the globetrotting adventure, with an international secret society that puts the Order of the Silver Twilight to shame! Whether we will be going up against an elder god seems somewhat up in the air, but I’m really excited nevertheless!!