Unbreakable Bonds

It’s a game day extra here at spalanz.com!

As it’s Fantasy Week here, in celebration of the blog’s third birthday on Friday, I wanted to talk a bit about the upcoming Unbreakable Bonds expansion for Runebound third edition, which provides a co-op/solo alternative to the game.

There hasn’t been a great deal of news for the new edition of Runebound for quite some time, which has had many folks fearing the sky would soon be falling on the game. But feat not! This bad boy is coming in the third quarter, with new stuff (including new heroes) to add to the game.

To start with, there are five scenarios presented in the expansion – two new ones, and co-op/solo versions of both base game scenarios and Caught in a Web. I like this idea a lot, as I feel it could leave the door open for FFG to produce further co-op/solo expansions that do the same for any subsequent expansions they put out. I’m sure plenty of people will complain that this not only requires the base game, but also other expansions in order to play, but I’m sure there are plenty more completionists for whom this won’t be an issue. And the smaller expansions FFG have put out so far seem so packed-full of stuff, I don’t think you’ll be wasting money on them…

The way that combat is being handled in this expansion has interested me a great deal, as rather than having specific rules to essentially bolt-on a monster AI, there are new “combat boards” for four different monster types, along with the respective combat tokens. This could well future-proof the game for Unbreakable Bonds to work with whatever is next for Runebound third edition – though of course, we’re still waiting to see any kind of big box expansion come out here.

It’s definitely an interesting twist, and has come at a time when I’ve actually been on the cusp of trading off this game as one that I haven’t played since my first foray almost a year ago. I might just keep hold of the game and wait to see what Unbreakable Bonds has to offer me, after all!

Conquest of Nerath

Hey everybody!
It’s game day here at spalanz.com, and in celebration of my blog’s third birthday this Friday, I’m making this Fantasy Week! What better way, therefore, to celebrate, than with a game set in one of the most archetypal fantasy universes ever conceived: Dungeons and Dragons! Okay, so I’m not going to be looking at the RPG itself, having never played it, but instead, I’m taking a look at one of the stand-out board games from the product line: Conquest of Nerath!

War has come to the Dungeons & Dragons world! In the north, the undead legions of the Dark Empire of Karkoth march against the fragile League of Nerath, determined to sweep away the human kingdoms forever. To the south, the infernal Iron Circle launches its own goblin hordes in a campaign of conquest against the elves and corsairs of Vailin. From the snowy expanse of the Winterbole Forest to the sun-warmed coasts of ancient Vailin, four great powers struggle for survival.

Conquest of Nerath

I’ve only actually played with this game once, back in 2013, and had an absolute blast! It’s basically the sort of area-control game that is a lot like Risk for those familiar with more mainstream boardgames, where you control a faction from the D&D world and attempt to take over the board as much as possible. The board itself is beautifully illustrated, and each of the four factions comes with a whole host of miniatures that represent the hordes they can bring to bear, from foot soldiers and siege engines to warships and storm elementals!

Rather than me go through the rules of the game here, let me present Rodney Thompson, one of the D&D lead designers from back in the day, and who has presented a load of video tutorials on D&D games:

The game is a lot of fun. It looks deceptively complex, as there are a lot of pieces on the board, from all of those miniatures to all of the tokens and cards involved, but the rules are actually really streamlined, allowing you to focus more on the narrative and fun, than on game mechanics and such. There isn’t a great deal of magic involved, aside from the wizards’ First Strike rule and, I suppose, the way some Event cards work, which also helps to keep the game straightforward. Each faction has the same sorts of units, and yet feels quite different in the way they play, which also adds to the ease of gameplay.

Conquest of Nerath

Of course, what would a D&D game be without, well, dungeons or dragons? The dungeon delving aspect of the game is one that adds a lot of the flavour of the setting that I think is otherwise missing from the game. The four factions, while being traditional fantasy tropes, are just that – tropes. The dungeon guardians, however, include some of the more iconic D&D monsters and villains, including the Beholder and Drow Raiders. Defeating these guys will give you the gold to buy reinforcements, as well as treasures to use in your battles against your enemies, but the mechanic is crucial, for me, to keeping the game on-theme overall.

Conquest of Nerath was released in 2011, and aside from one promo treasure card released at GenCon that year, there has never been any kind of expansion for it. Which is absolutely fine, when you think about it! So many games in my collection have been expanded unto death, it feels oddly satisfying to have a game that is completely self-contained like this, and the strategic depth involved in your conquest is something that can keep the game going.

Highly recommended!

Fantasy Week!

Hey everybody!
My blog is turning three on Friday, 21 April, and in the tradition of previous Birthday Weeks here at spalanz.com, I’m having a theme week where I explore all manner of stuff in something of a microcosm of what my blog is about. This year, I’m declaring it Fantasy Week, and will be taking a look at all sorts of media with a fantastical setting.

This could of course be contentious, as some things will naturally be left out. I’ve got blogs lined up that will be taking in Dungeons and Dragons, the Old World of Warhammer Fantasy, as well as some other odd bits that I hope you’ll enjoy! Of course, one week of blogs can’t encompass everything, and there will naturally be some things that fall somewhat by the wayside – most glaringly, Lord of the Rings isn’t being featured this week.

Why?

Well, because my love and enthusiasm for Middle Earth really needs its own week – maybe when it comes time for the fourth birthday…

I’ve enjoyed fantasy books since I was a child, and regularly used to devour them over all else in the school library. In later years, particularly after discovering there were Star Wars novels, I’ve moved more into the sci-fi realm, though always find myself full of unbridled enthusiasm whenever I discover something new, such as The Elenium or the Powder Mage trilogy. Indeed, even modern classics like the Legend of Drizzt, I’ve come to quite late-on! I’m hoping to share some more of these fantasy classics as the week progresses, however, so stay tuned for more amazing stuff!

I’ve already waxed lyrical about how much I love a good fantasy novel, covering a fair breadth of the staples in this blog from 2014, so I’ll say no more for now, but let’s get on with the show!

The Real Ghostbusters!

It’s time for some more Saturday morning cartoon nostalgia!

Back in the late 1980s, Columbia made a cartoon series based on the original film that ran to 140 episodes across two seasons, which always sounds a huge amount, but then something like He-Man had roughly the same number, so I guess it was something of a standard. As a fun fact, the cartoon was called “The Real Ghostbusters” because of a dispute with Filmation, the company behind He-Man, Brave Starr, and many others – Columbia actually had to license the name for the film in 1984, and it led to the storyline of the first episode (shown in the youtube video above) that shows a rival group of ghost hunters trying to steal the work of Egon, Ray, Peter and Winston.

Anyhow!

As much as I love the franchise, I have to say, I’ve never really found the same kind of love for the cartoon as I have for the film(s), even given my previously-mentioned toy obsession, the toys of course being directly made from the cartoon and not the movie.

Looking back, I don’t really remember any particular episode from the cartoon series, though I do have vague memories of watching the show as a child. For some odd reason, the clearest memory of the Real Ghostbusters was a book/audio tape combo called The Cabinet of Calamari, based off episode 63:

The cartoons are pretty goofy to watch them today, and while I’m a great apologist for a lot of this sort of stuff (check out my Ring Raiders, D&D and Visionaries blogs in this category!) I just can’t bring myself to watch these things without cringing a little! I mean, Slimer is the Ghostbusters’ pet, for heaven’s sake!!

It is worth mentioning that a few of the ghosts from the new Cryptozoic game have their origin in this cartoon series, including the Boogeyman and Samhain. There is a definite nostalgia value here, but I don’t think I’ll be rushing off to buy these on DVD any time soon…

Birthday Week Game Day Extra!

It’s birthday week here on spalanz.com, and time for a bit of game day extra, as I take a look at some more nostalgia from my childhood: The Real Ghostbusters: The Game!

Ghostbusters retro games

Oh, this one’s hilarious! Dating from 1989, the game is a tie-in to the cartoon series of the same name (more on that tomorrow!) You play one of the four Ghostbusters, or Janine or Slimer, and travel around the board trying to trap ghosts – once all the ghosts are trapped, the winner is the person who had the most.

Ghostbusters retro games

Along the way, there are mechanics for player interaction where you can attempt to “spook” your opponents – basically by playing rock/paper/scissors – to take their kit cards. Without all three pieces of kit (proton pack, proton gun, trap), you can’t trap ghosts and so cannot win the game. When you come to trap ghosts, the “bust-o-meter” is spun to determine the strength of your stream: if it’s higher than the ghost’s slime value (listed on the side of the board), you trap it. That’s pretty much all there is to it, though Action cards do allow you to interact with the game a little more, such as moving to ghosts to trap them etc.

I had this game from new, and seem to remember trying to get my brother to play it with me back in the day. I found it in the attic when I moved a few years ago, along with another awesome retro game that will be featured here no doubt eventually, and convinced my regular gaming buddy Tony to play, but it didn’t really stand up to the test of time.

Something I wasn’t all that impressed by was just how easy it is to knock somebody out of the game entirely, by winning just one round of rock/paper/scissors. Given your ability in the game is based entirely on something so arbitrary is just bizarre, I thought – it feels more luck-based than any kind of dice game, somehow! Maybe I’m just not good at rock/paper/scissors, though?

At any rate, it was fun to revisit the past, but I can’t say I’d recommend hunting down a copy on ebay anytime soon!

Ghostbusters comics!

Let’s continue with birthday week here at spalanz.com, with a look at something I’ve only fairly recently discovered: Ghostbusters comics!

Ghostbusters comics

Shocking stuff, I know, but I was completely unaware of these creations until the board game from Cryptozoic, which stated it uses the artwork from the ongoing series from IDW comics. Having no idea such things existed, I decided it was time to investigate! That was in October 2014, and despite buying the second volume a couple of months later, I still hadn’t actually gotten around to reading them until preparations began for this very blog you’re reading now!

The ongoing series began in September 2011 and would eventually run to 16 issues. The two books I’ve read so far really have the feel of the movies in terms of the characters we know and love there, and since reading them a few days ago, I’ve been trying my best to track down some more!

The first book collects the first four issues that tell a story connected to the first film in the series. Gozer the Gozerian is attempting to come back to this plane of existence, only this time doesn’t want to make the mistake of having its form chosen entirely at random. Instead, it has spawned a new creation, called Idulnas, who will attempt to sway the Decider (Ray, in case you’d forgotten) into choosing a much more horrible, destructive form. Well, despite Idulnas’ attempts otherwise, Ray still chooses the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, and the story ends with New York under six feet of marshmallow.

The second book continues a couple of the plot threads, but takes our intrepid quartet upstate to Schenectady, where a paranormal manifestation has taken over a theme park. The manifestation possesses Peter Venkman, though Venkman manages to exorcise himself and the ghost is busted. The book ends with Egon following a hunch about the increased ambient PKE-readings around the city that leads him to an old schoolfriend he thought dead, Eugene Visitor. Turns out, Eugene has captured Death, meaning he didn’t die in school, but also that nobody else is truly dying, hence the increased paranormal activity.

They’re a fantastic pair of books, and I can’t believe it’s taken me over a year and a half to get around to reading them! Sure, the first book is a little derivative of the movie, but I thought this posed an interesting question about the nature of the Ghostbusters franchise as a whole – just what is it all about? The movies show us four guys who managed to come up with a way of dealing with paranormal activity in New York City, and so run around with proton packs and shooting ghosts into traps. That’s really it – there’s no big drama in their personal lives, as those personal lives aren’t really all that important to the story. We get four almost caricatures, and then the game is afoot!

So it was interesting, to me, to get a storyline that begins to explore who these people are. It’s early days, of course, as there are a whole load of these books available on amazon, but I liked in particular seeing the character development of Peter Venkman, all-too-often relegated to being smart-mouthed comic relief. During his possession in the second book, we get to see more about him, but we also actually get to see just how capable he is in such circumstances. Ray and Egon get along because they’re the nerdy-scientist trope, and Winston is the everyman who answered a job ad, but why is Peter even there? Well, now we know. The others aren’t ignored either, as we get a little bit more light shed on each. It was interesting to see more of Egon in particular, and I hope more is explored there in later volumes.

Definitely worth the trouble getting hold of these books!

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Ghostbusters!

Aw, yeah! You love it!

It’s birthday week here at spalanz.com, and I’m reliving another of my all-time favourite franchises: Ghostbusters! I’m almost as old as the original film, which is a bit of trivia that is partly meaningless, but grew up surrounded by it thanks to the sequel coming out at a time when all I wanted was to have lots and lots of toys. And my god, did this franchise deliver on that front!

I’m going to ramble inanely for a while now…

Ghostbusters retro toys

Ghostbusters is one of those films, like Beetlejuice and Masters of the Universe, that I used to love to watch repeatedly (driving the folks mental, no doubt), before then recreating the story with a vast horde of action figures. Between us, my brother and I must have had everything going for the range – which makes the above photo a sad memory in some respects, as it’s not the entire collection we had! Taking a look through all of those I still have in order to write this, however, has brought a lot of memories back, I have to say! Still upset my mum never let us have the goo that came with the fire station…

Ghostbusters

I love the first Ghostbusters movie, largely because, as a kid, I loved Slimer and thought he was the best. Not entirely sure why, but I just remember this as being a fact. I somehow never really registered this film as a comedy back in the day, I just remember all of the awesome action scenes as being amazing, and the “Saving the Day” sequence always used to excite me like nothing you’d know. I’m often surprised when I re-watch movies that were a big part of my childhood, as I find it hard to date them, as the quality or whatever is deeply ingrained so I gloss over any imperfections, much like I still don’t see Jabba the Hutt as a puppet. However, the special effects in this movie, considering it’s almost 32 years old, are still pretty great when you watch it now. Sure, some bits might be clunky, but that sequence with the paranormal energy zooming over the New York cityscape? Forget about it, that is just cinema at its finest!

Ghostbusters

The second film came out five years later, (a move that parallels Indiana Jones 2 and 3, just thought I’d point that out), and seemed somehow more subdued than the first one. While Gozer the Gozerian (still makes me laugh) is out to destroy the world, and would be a very serious threat if its chosen form hadn’t been a huge marshmallow, Vigo the Carpathian spends almost all of the film stuck in a painting, and barely manifests as a real person before his defeat. There’s a greater element of supernatural terror that comes from this, but I don’t know, it just doesn’t feel quite the same, I guess.

Ghostbusters II

The story still manages to have some wonderful moments – I love all the underground stuff, as I’m semi-fascinated with stuff like the history of disused underground systems like that. The walking Statue of Liberty is also a fantastic sequence that I find really exciting in the course of the movie. A lot of movie sequels are bad attempts to cash-in on the success of the first, but this one is definitely not that!

I love these films immeasurably, as they’re just enjoyable action adventure stories with a whole ton of comedy, not to mention the enormous nostalgia factor. That’s pretty much the entire substance of this blog, anyway, and makes me realise I don’t really have a point that I’m trying to make here.

So I’ll leave you with this picture of my original Ghostbusters toys…

Ghostbusters retro toys