Battlelore!

Hey everybody!
It’s part two of my game day blog special thing, looking at two games on the Battlelore system. Following last week’s look at Battles of Westeros, it’s time to take a look at the fantasy version, Battlelore itself!

Battlelore

The second edition of the game, Battlelore came out late in 2013. Set in the same universe as the hugely popular Runebound, but featuring the factions that we’ve all come to expect from Terrinoth in this post-Runewars age, the game pits the human Daqan Lords against the abominable Uthuk Y’llan. The game is a pretty strategic tabletop wargame, and prior to the launch of the Runewars miniatures game earlier this year, I’d have said it was probably the premier such game from Fantasy Flight.

If you’ve read my Battles of Westeros blog from last week, you’ll have a fair idea for what to expect from this game, as well. I think Battlelore is the more enjoyable game, in part because the fantasy theme elevates it somewhat from the gritty battles in the earlier game. There are also a number of different elements changed in Battlelore that make it just more interesting, to me! Let’s take a look at some of them now.

Battlelore

The system is of course going to be similar to BoW, so it should be no surprise that there is a Command Card system that is used as the main mechanic. You order your troops about the field by selecting from a hand of cards, and then over the course of the round those orders are carried out. That does make it sound quite simplistic, of course, and I think it’s important to note that there is a tremendous amount of strategy involved here, as you try to ensure you manoeuvre your troops into the best possible position.

Battlelore

The troops have similar-looking cards to those in BoW, but I just want to talk a moment about the deployment here. The game also comes with those smaller cards shown at the bottom of the above picture. These deployment cards all have the same back, and at the start of the game you pick these cards out and place them in the hexes on your side of the board face-down. There are also Decoy cards, so an element of bluffing is introduced as to where your big threats actually are.

There is also a really cool element to both army building and scenario generation for the game. Similar to BoW, there are scenarios to play through, though rather than having the prescriptive feel of Westeros, here the scenario is generated by players each taking a scenario card, which shows one half of the battlefield board, and marks out their deployment zone as well as detailing victory conditions. It’s a really interesting way to ensure the game feels fresh whenever you play.

Additionally, armies are generated by a points-based system. Those small deployment cards show the points of each unit as a “muster value” in the bottom-left corner. Armies are generally costed up to 50 points, and the game comes with a few suggestions for each of the factions within.

 

Battlelore

So how does combat work?

Well, there are fancy dice that you throw, the number of dice being equal to the attack value (in the red circle) of the attacking unit. The dice have sword symbols for melee attacks, and bullseye symbols for ranged attacks, and for each hit you score, you remove a model from the unit. Each unit in Battlelore also has special abilities that can take place during combat, adding to these basic mechanics. It makes combat fairly straightforward overall, anyway!

If that’s the battle, what about the lore?

Battlelore

The dice also have a weird diamond symbol on them, which is the lore symbol. This allows you to gain one lore token – these tokens are then used to play Lore cards that can have different effects over the course of the game. Each faction has their own distinct deck, which allows for the theme to come through quite strongly here. As you can see in the picture above, the cards show when they can be played, but there is still a very strong element of strategic depth to how you use these effects over the course of a game.

In a fairly broad nutshell, that’s it! Battlelore is not the sort of game that I get to play a lot, primarily I think because of the wargame aspect it has. Similar story to Battles of Westeros, really! However, it is a great deal of fun to play, and there have been a good deal of expansions to the game over the last four years, from “Reinforcement Packs” that feature a single miniature that you can draft into your army, to the Undead faction released back in 2015. The symmetry with Runewars has been off for a while of course, as we still haven’t had the Latari Elves released for the game – and now that the Runewars miniatures game has landed with such force, it has me wondering what the future of Battlelore will be. I can’t claim to have any insider knowledge, of course, but anecdotal evidence seems to be supporting the idea that Runewars miniatures game is selling well, perhaps due to its appeal to the disenfranchised Warhammer Fantasy players. Given the fact that Runewars miniatures and Battlelore have such close parallels as to almost be the same game, it makes me wonder if we’ll actually see any further support for it, or if instead the game will just quietly sit in the inventory as Runewars had been for so many years before it.

I suppose only time will tell on that front!

Battles of Westeros

Hey everybody!
It’s game day here at spalanz.com, and this week is the first in a two-part series that takes a look at a pair of fairly similar games from Fantasy Flight, tabletop wargames that use a hex-based map the players fight over. This week, we’re going to Westeros!

Battles of Westeros

Battles of Westeros was published in 2010 by Fantasy Flight, as “A Battlelore Game”, and uses a lot of the mechanics from the earlier, fantasy-based game. Set in the now-iconic universe of George RR Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series, players take the armies of Stark and Lannister to bloody combat across a series of scenarios that recreate some of the climactic battles of the novel series.

The scenario-based system means that you get to play different games each time you play, as the victory conditions are always changing. There is, of course, also the option of a Skirmish game that allows for less-prescriptive games. The system is fairly straightforward, with one side needing to secure objectives and such, and the gameplay tends to be uncluttered, allowing you to focus more on strategy than rules.

Each game round has four phases: rally, order, marshalling, and regroup. Rallying the troops is basically refreshing all of those units that have acted already in your last turn. Ordering the troops is where you dish out the orders for the coming battle; Marshalling is where those orders happen, such as movement and combat; and finally Regroup is the cleanup step where you check for victory and the like.

Battles of Westeros

The army you choose will give you a choice of Commanders you can play, as shown above. Commanders have some powerful in-game mechanics, and always come with a group of bodyguard units. Jaime Lannister comes with Lannisport Guard, for example, so he will take up one slot in the Guard’s grouping when deployed. His abilities, however, will usually affect the whole army, and not just the army unit he’s with. For example, Commanders have a one-use “commit” ability that is quite powerful, but can only be used once in the game before the card is flipped over. Jaime’s commit ability affects all of the units adjacent to him whenever he captures an enemy Commander, while his regular ability only affects the unit he’s in.

In addition, Commanders come with a suite of Leadership cards that are added to your deck at the start of the game. These Leadership cards form something of the meat of the game. Usually, a card will have one ability that will require you to spend tokens to use them (Jaime Lannister has three such tokens to spend per turn, denoted in the bottom-right of his card). These cards are used during the Order phase to give your army direction for the coming turn. The Commander’s Leadership cards, however, have multiple choices on them, providing for greater tactical flexibility over the course of the game.

Battles of Westeros

The combat system is notable for using 8-sided dice (a precursor to X-Wing). Each unit is colour-coded, from the most basic infantry troops (green), to the middle-guys (blue), and finally the elite units (red). There are more green symbols on these dice than red, naturally, and in order to roll a successful hit against a unit, the dice need to match that unit’s colour. Additionally, green units roll 2 dice, while red units roll 4 dice, so while it is possible to defeat an elite unit with your chumps, it can be a slog. However, it is also possible to roll a Valor symbol, which is a bit like a wild card and will cause a hit no matter what colour of unit you’re attacking. Of course, the very chumpiest of infantry have a further restriction that denies them this ability, but it does mean you have more of a chance than you might think.

The dice also have the potential to cause Morale hits, which force the unit to retreat one hex. this can be important as some units can Counterattack if they survive the first round of melee combat. When hits are resolved, one model from the unit is removed for each hit, so you can potentially wipe out a unit, which causes a Morale loss for the army overall. If your House’s morale gets too low, your army will flee the battlefield immediately. Importantly, Commanders are not removed as casualties in this way, but instead have a “capture rating”, denoting the number of hits that must be done to them in a single round of combat once all other models in the Commander’s unit have been removed as casualties. Captured Commanders are removed from the board, and their abilities can no longer be used.

Battles of Westeros is a really fun and engaging game, and will appeal especially to fans of the books looking to get something deep out of a board game. It does use a lot of elements of the traditional war game, of course, such as morale and line of sight, and games tend to take around 2 hours to get through, so it will likely appeal to pretty dedicated folks! I had a lot of fun playing this game back in the day, though as other games have taken over my game nights in recent years, its long set-up and play times meant that BoW became relegated to the point where I eventually sold it all last year. Which was a shame, as it’s a really great game.

The game has been kinda languishing in FFG’s inventory for a while, however, with no new expansions since 2012’s House Baratheon box. While they have launched the LCG in a second edition, I think Cool Mini Or Not’s upcoming miniatures game will likely mean that Battles of Westeros has seen its time in the sun…

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…

So much change!

Hey everybody!
It’s another week of Change over at Games Workshop, as we enter the third week of Tzeentch releases for Age of Sigmar! After the human cultists and the beastmen, we’re now in the realm of the daemons, including the previously previewed Lord of Change / Kairos Fateweaver.

Tzeentch Kairos Fateweaver

This week’s releases, while exciting, are predominantly re-packs, however. From what I can tell, we have the new Lord of Change, and the Blue/Brimstone Horrors that we’ve previously seen in Silver Tower, but the rest of the range is the pre-existing stuff from back in the day, such as Flamers, Screamers, and Pink Horrors. Bit of a shame that those two “new” Pink Horrors from the boxed game haven’t made an appearance, but I guess they have to keep something in these boxes to prompt folks to buy them! While I might sound a bit down on the release, I do actually like the fact that they’re slowly getting round to re-packing all of their minis in the new stuff, so we have a more consistent look and all the rest of it.

There’s also a new Start Collecting box for Tzeentch daemons, which is good to see! I’ve been toying with the idea of getting more bits to flesh out my Silver Tower enemies for a while, so it would be a good way to do that!

Stormcast Eternals Lord Aquilor

It looks like this is the end of Tzaanuary now, however, with February once more bringing new Stormcast Eternals to the Mortal Realms. I mentioned these the other day, the so-called Rangers of the Stormcast forces, and we’re seeing some more of these guys now, with another Lord Celestant type miniature, the Lord Aquilor (above). Gryph-hounds have always struck me as a bit silly, and I’ve previously used High Elf lions to replace them with my Lord Castellant, but with this new batch of releases… I don’t know. It looks to be a bigger release than last year’s Extremis Chamber, which only gave us the dracoth riders and the stardrake of course, but so many silly animals have left me feeling a bit disappointed, overall.

Unless I can somehow build that Lord Aquilor to look like he’s riding a Tauntaun. That might do the trick…

Reinforcements! #Warhammer40k #DarkEldar #GangsOfCommorragh #awesome

A post shared by Mark (@marrrkusss) on

I’ve picked up the new Gangs of Commorragh boardgame, and I’m very excited for more Dark Eldar, so expect a first look at that bad boy on this Tuesday’s game day blog!

I must admit, I’ve been really slow with painting stuff so far this year, and the purchases in the above instagram picture are kinda unnecessary really – I still have the first Venom only partly painted, after all! I think moving from weekly to monthly painting update blogs may have been a bad move, but keep your eyes peeled for the January update in the next few days, where I’ll talk about this more. While I may have been slow in getting anywhere with painting them, however, I am still very much enjoying the Dark Eldar miniatures!


Age of Sigmar isn’t the only thing to experience Change at the minute, anyway. I’d like to get a little more philosophical for a moment, as I’ve been thinking a lot about the future of late, as is often the case at the start of a year. In 2017, I’m going to be moving house, and while I’m currently renting the flat I’m in, I’ve decided to actually buy myself a house and move away from where I am currently. Naturally, then, I’ve been looking to downsize a lot of the stuff that I’ve managed to accumulate in the time that I’ve been here, to say nothing of what I’d accumulated prior to that! One of the biggest cuts, therefore, is the boardgames that I’ve amassed.

I’ve been slimming down the collection for a while now, and games that have previously featured here on my game day blogs have since been sold on ebay – who knows, you may be reading this having bought one of them! But while I’ve been doing so fairly infrequently up to this point, I think it’s time to really trim the fat now. While I have no intention of cutting back on game day blogs, as it’s one of my favourite aspects of my blog, I suppose it’s entirely possible that there may be a narrowing of focus as my collection shrinks. After all, pretty much every game day blog features a game that I personally own and have played. I think I might try and do more session report type blogs, though, rather than merely churning out review type blogs all the time, and see if I can mix things up a bit! I’d also like to do more news-y type game day blogs, which I did try towards the back end of last year, but haven’t really done that many since.

At any rate, if you’re a regular reader of this here blog – first of all, thank you very much! But let me know if you have any views on these thoughts, as I’m still very much in the sort of planning stages of everything!

For now, at least, the first look at Gangs of Commorragh will be coming up this week, so it’s not about to change overnight!

Signs of Carcosa

Hey everybody!
It’s the first game day of 2017! I’m hoping to have lots of awesome games on the blog over the next 52 weeks, and I think I’m starting with an absolute cracker! As per my Christmastime tradition now, I’ve been playing Eldritch Horror with the new expansion, though in this case, “new” is kinda pushing it a little. With no new big box expansion for the game until later this month, I’d been saving the smaller box, Signs of Carcosa, until the festive period – no mean feat, considering the game was released in June!

Eldritch Horror Signs of Carcosa

So, Signs of Carcosa is a small-box expansion that follows in the manner of Strange Remnants in that it includes new investigators as well as a new Ancient One, and a glut of new cards to support that ancient enemy. Signs of Carcosa is particularly exciting for me, because we have four investigators from the Arkham Horror base game, which is always something of an event in these circumstances – they’re investigators who have been a part of this mythos for so long now, after all!

Eldritch Horror Signs of Carcosa

Hastur is the big bad guy from this expansion, and while his subtitle there might be “the unspeakable one”, this is very much a King In Yellow-themed expansion, similar to The Yellow Sign expansion for Arkham Horror. Naturally, there isn’t a lot of focus thrown specifically on the play from RW Chambers’ short story collection, but its presence does loom large in many of the game pieces. Encounters in the various board locations focus on artists and seeing the Yellow Sign, etc, while all of the Other World encounters are focused on Lost Carcosa.

Much like Strange Remnants brought back the focus mechanic from Mountains of Madness, Signs of Carcosa brings back the impairments mechanic from Under the Pyramids, which has a lot of focus placed on it through Hastur’s ability, along with a lot of the fail conditions on the encounter cards.

Hastur is one of the more difficult of the ancient ones to defeat in other games such as Arkham Horror and Elder Sign, but his incarnation here seems at first glance to be much more simple – you only need to solve two mysteries to win! However, these mysteries have a reliance on spending clues, and there are a lot of Mythos cards that will force you to discard your clues, which makes solving even two of Hastur’s mysteries a lot more difficult than it perhaps might seem! I actually managed to win the match against him, but it was a close-run thing, and the eventual win was actually highly luck-dependent, as I’d had an Other World encounter that gave me the clues I needed to go on to solve the mystery. One of my investigators had already gone insane, and I was keeping another pretty much permanently in London in an effort to spawn more clues before they kept getting discarded!

Eldritch Horror Signs of Carcosa

We also get the now-usual batch of new assets and artifacts (mostly King in Yellow-themed, of course!), new spells and unique assets, and Hastur gets three sets of special encounters. Considering you only need to solve two mysteries to win, he comes with a total of eight – a nice touch for replayability! The new Prelude cards offer some interesting set-up options, including doling out copies of the new Promise of Power condition card, one that allows the influence of The King in Yellow to be felt even if Hastur isn’t the ancient one, and another that brings the Order of the Silver Twilight to the game through a fifth reserve slot. I really like the Order, and for years had tried to make a Silver Twilight deck work in Call of Cthulhu, so it’s always fun when they show up. Part of me hopes we’ll get something of a full-on expansion with them in or something, but I also like the way they insinuate themselves into other expansions.

All in all, this was a fun box. Didn’t feel quite as exciting as Strange Remnants, which has a lot of stuff going on of course, but anything that adds so integral an ancient one as Hastur to the game has got to be close to the top of anybody’s wish list!

 

Omens of Ice

Hey everybody!
It’s time for another game day here at spalanz.com, and this week I’m taking a look at the latest expansion for Elder Sign: Omens of Ice! (This blog was originally slated to come out in Halloween week, where it would have made more thematic sense…)

Elder Sign: Omens of Ice

Elder Sign is one of my favourite games to break out for an evening of cosmic horror and dice rolling. The Gates of Arkham expansion from early 2015 introduced a new mode of play for the game, where we left the museum behind and ventured into the various neighbourhoods of the town. Omens of Ice is an expansion in the very same mould, as we venture into the Alaskan wilderness, following the mysterious goings-on in the wake of the discovery of a statue of Ithaqua…

Elder Sign: Omens of Ice

I love the snow theme in pretty much any game (The Frozen Wastes for Runebound being a prime example of this!) and was truly enraptured by the Mountains of Madness expansion for Eldritch Horror for the amount of theme that comes through in the gameplay there. Omens of Ice feels very similar to these games, as you need to ration your supplies as you face the biting cold.

Omens of Ice features a staged encounter deck, where the cards you encounter in stage one vary between the green (easy) and yellow (normal) difficulty, while stage two are only the yellow and red (hard) cards. I really like this because it allows the designers to make the game feel like you’re trudging into the wilderness, and passing into stage two actually means something. It really echoes the source material such as Algernon Blackwood’s The Wendigo, where the earlier part of the story feels ‘safe’ while the later parts in the wilderness are most assuredly not!

Elder Sign: Omens of Ice

The Expedition Camp card replaces the Museum Entry card, and acts like that card in every way. The Track card tracks both your supplies (based on the time of year) and the length of your adventure. Supplies are a new commodity that have an impact on the game that can, for instance, affect the stamina of your investigators if you don’t have any. The day track is linked to the clock, unsurprisingly, and advances whenever the clock strikes midnight. If the track reaches the end during Summer, you just add two doom tokens to the Ancient One track and move back to the Day 7 space; in Winter, however, if you take too long on your investigation, you’ll lose the game!

The day track also governs the Storm mechanic. Storm tokens act like penalties on encounter cards, and are placed on encounters through various effects, such as on the Ancient One track or through failing to complete an encounter, as well as through the day track. Some of them are blank, but some of them will cause you to lose health or supplies, etc. Some of them are blank, however, merely clouds threatening on the horizon rather than an actual threat for you to deal with!

Elder Sign: Omens of Ice

There is also a new deck of Alaskan Mythos Cards that features some horrible new effects to reflect the biting winter conditions.

Elder Sign: Omens of Ice

The new investigators are a mixed bag already in the Arkham Horror universe, while the Ancient Ones feature the iconic Ithaqua himself, naturally! The item and spell cards are the usual mix of giving your investigators bonus dice – including two items that each allow you to take the red or yellow die even if it is locked. Not sure how game-breaking that could be, as while it is a pain when you have a bunch of stuff you can’t use because the die is locked, it’s still a fundamental aspect of the struggle in this game. I haven’t yet had the specific situation come up to see how game-changing it could be, but the thought is there…

Elder Sign: Omens of Ice

Overall, I really like this expansion a lot. It’s difficult, don’t get me wrong – I haven’t actually managed to win a game yet, with the timed mechanic from the day tracker causing me a lot of problems – but it’s also super-thematic, which is something that I really enjoy about FFG’s Lovecraftian games. While I wouldn’t call the Call of Cthulhu LCG a misstep, I do feel that the co-operative struggle against the Ancient Ones is a much better way to implement mythos games, and was really pleased to see that avenue for the upcoming Arkham Horror LCG.

EDIT: Since writing this blog, FFG have announced a fourth expansion to Elder Sign, Omens of the Deep, again using the Gates of Arkham mode for gameplay. Looks like this is now the set manner for the game, and I can’t wait for both it and further ‘Omens of’ expansions to come out. Maybe Omens of the Sands for an Under the Pyramids-style expansion? We’ll have to wait and see!