Another Warhammer Preview!

It’s been quite an exciting preview this time around, hasn’t it? Not perhaps choc-full of surprises in some respects, but even so, it’s been really good to see what’s coming over the hill!

To start with, 40k has had the next couple of codexes shown off, Custodes and Genestealer Cults! They’re also getting a new battle box that is showing off a new character model apiece. The GSC Saboteur model is very nice, I must say – I’m not planning to get the box, but I will pick up that model when she’s released separately!

There’s just so much character there!

Age of Sigmar has had the next battletome shown off, the Maggotkin, and the next season of Warhammer Underworlds has got its next warband in the shape of a pirate ogre – including a pirate monkey with a knife!

I think it’s a really nice callback to the variety of Ogre Maneaters of the Old World. Similar to the other ogre warband that was just the one guy and a bunch of creatures, I guess that’s the template here. Interestingly, they have said this is the way forward now, kinda weird warbands that go a bit more into the corners of the mortal realms. Very intrigued as to what that could mean, I must say!

So, this wasn’t something I was expecting. I’m not an aficionado of Blood Bowl, though I have heard of Dungeon Bowl. It does kinda intrigue me how this works, playing American football in the dungeon? Not sure if I’d be intrigued enough to pick it up, though, because let’s be honest, there is rather a great deal of awesome stuff coming out right now, and my gaming budget is being hammered!!

Yes, that’s right – a new starter set for Warcry, and this one is so much more up my alley than the Catacombs set. I mean, dungeon battles are an interesting take for the game, but I think this looks much more like the sort of box that launched the game. I’m getting a lot of Temple of Doom vibes from the mining terrain – though many people have likened it to Goblin Town, too. There is some incredible looking terrain, and the warbands are a very nice inclusion – the spider guys are really quite original, and it’s lovely to have some more Darkoath warriors. A prelude to seeing the Chaos marauders getting a refresh? 🤔

It looks like it’s going to be a really good set, and I’m really looking forward to getting my hands on it!

Oh yeah, and there was this!

Now, I don’t collect these chaps, and I’ve moved away somewhat from the Heresy in terms of the game, but it’s always pretty nice to see these event-style miniatures. Very nice!

So there we are, another preview day! New Warcry is definitely exciting me the most, but I’m looking forward to getting my hands on the book for the Cultists.

The Conqueror Worm

For whatever reason, back when my blog was 5 and I featured Hellboy during Birthday Week, I neglected to get to the fifth trade paperback in the series, The Conqueror Worm. Which is weird, because my goodreads profile tells me that I did read it back then! When I had first got into Hellboy, this was as far as the series went, and I had wanted to relive the early 2000s with my birthday feature, but never mind – let’s correct this oversight now, in fact let’s do so twice!

Firstly, let’s talk about the comic. Back at the start of 1939, the Nazis had attempted to commune with the elder beings floating around in space, sending up a dead body for one of these monstrosities to inhabit, but the plan failed before they could recall the rocket. Well, the rocket has been spotted in 2000 and the BPRD are dispatched to investigate! Hellboy and Roger are led to Hunte Castle in Austria by a local police officer, who later turns out to be Inger von Klempt, granddaughter of Hermann von Klempt, the Nazi scientist who led the experiment in 1939. Lobster Johnson, something of a Captain America figure from the WW2-era, and believed dead when the original Nazi plot was disrupted, reappears and teams up with Roger to destroy the castle’s power generators, while Hellboy is initially tortured by von Klempt and his cybernetic Kriegaffe (war ape).

The rocket lands and a gas comes out, transforming everybody present into frog creatures. Inger has been protected against it to some extent, but when the Conqueror Worm itself emerges from the capsule and begins to devour the transformed mutants, she asks her grandfather how he could possibly hope to control the beast. Hermann tells her, after the failure of so many projects to bring about Nazi domination, he just wants to watch the death of the world as the Conqueror Worm will awaken the Ogdru Jahad. Roger is able to kill Hermann, and Lobster Johnson then uses a lightning rod to attract a massive jolt of electricity to kill the Worm. After his experiences with the BPRD, Hellboy decides to quit, and travel to Africa.

In an epilogue, Rasputin’s ghost is taunted by Hecate, who herself is inhabiting the body of Ilsa Haupstein still contained within the iron maiden. Rasputin’s plans to release the Ogdru Jahad will forever come to nothing, as the only force capable of releasing them is Hellboy’s stone right hand. Rasputin screams in defiance, to the point where his spirit shatters; Baba Yaga collects a fragment to wear in an acorn around her neck.

The book is quite glorious, I have to say. Some of the panels have such a gothic imagery that it really speaks to the search through the lower depths of Hunte Castle, and the sense of foreboding and dread as if the gargoyles are watching Hellboy’s progress. There’s something of a 90s feel to some of the panels, as the Conqueror Worm goes about his business – a lot of the colours and shading brings to mind the Dark Empire series, for me. The story is just exactly what I think of when I think of Hellboy – crazy Nazi scientists with their doomsday plots, it’s all delightfully over the top. The epilogue though, is really quite eerie – there’s a sense of the evil puppet masters, behind the scenes going over their plots, and so on. I especially liked the addition of Baba Yaga at the end, as well.

All in all, very creepy, and exactly what I like in a Hellboy story!

Secondly, I played with the Conqueror Worm expansion for the first time not too long ago, and I was really quite impressed! For years, despite having the graphic novels, Hellboy to me was Big Red going up against the Nazis and their Project Ragna Rok, thanks to the movie portrayal. While the frog monsters make sense within the board game universe, it’s still really quite special when you get more into this side of the Hellboy universe. The expansion features five types of Nazis, plus the eponymous Worm himself, as well as new scenery and rooms, and the associated card decks, along with two new playable agents: Lobster Johnson and Roger.

I’ve played The Cold Shoulder scenario, and I found it to be really thematic for this particular storyline. I’ve talked about it before, but there are very few “big” stories within the Hellboy comics – for the most part, two parters are as long as things get. So it’s nice to see a big story like Conqueror Worm get the big expansion treatment here. The game starts out with the agents exploring the hallways of the castle until they come across a point of interest, which (spoiler alert) reveals the laboratory where the Nazis are containing the Worm itself. With this tile placed, the Confrontation begins, and in order to win you’ll need to place charges in specific rooms and blow the castle up. While the Worm only has a move characteristic of 1, that miniature is huge, and it’s really quite frightening to see it coming across the board at you! As it happens, I somehow managed to block it in a chokepoint with a piece of terrain, not sure if that was played correctly, but it did slow it down enough that I was then able to move through and place the remaining charges to rig the castle, and get out before it all went boom. Poor Lobster Johnson did actually almost give his life for the cause, though I was able to heal him enough before the final showdown so that we all made it through!

This was my first game with three agents, and I think it definitely helped, as I was able to do a lot on my turns, and the game overall felt like it went much faster for having those increased options. Of course, I’m not sure if I’d always want to do that because the game does scale up for more agents being on the board, but still, it was a lot of fun, and I thought this was perhaps the first time when I felt like the game was a real co-op experience.

The Hellboy board game is truly shaping up to be one of my favourites here, and in recent weeks I think I’ve now doubled the number of plays with it. I think it helps that we’re in that season when it’s good to hunker down with a game, and despite all of my rantings and ravings about Kickstarter games here on the blog, there is something quite exciting about opening up a massive box that is choc-full of trays and trays of miniatures. The Hellboy theme is just the icing on the cake, really!

I do have Hellboy volume 6, and I think I may have investigated one of the stories in there, but I’m soon going to be in uncharted territories with the comic book series. I’m hoping to increase the library there soon, branching out into the BPRD series as well, to see what that’s all about. As for the board game, I definitely want to see more of the BPRD Archives expansion, and start putting together my own case files, as well as trying out more from the core set. The only thing that kinda gives me pause on that is just the sheer amount of frogs… Having all of the Kickstarter goodness does make me feel like mixing things up with some of those other miniatures for some variety, you know? There are suggested rules for that, as well, so I’ll have to take a look into the wider game and see just how I can bring that about. I have clearly been spoiled…!

Hellboy Musings

It’s been more than two years since I took delivery of that big box full of evil goodness, and in that time, I’ve managed to play it a grand total of just four times. Four times! It’s shocking, even though I have moved house and had two children in that time! I honestly don’t know why I’ve not wanted to get it to the table, either, as it is a really nice dungeon crawler. It reminds me of Descent in many ways, but with a much more unique theme than the fairly generic (by comparison) fantasy realm of Terrinoth.

The box is huge though, being a Kickstarter game and all, full of miniatures that basically make up two fairly substantial expansions, plus a few smaller ones, as well as the main base game. It can be quite off-putting, and it has got me thinking about either splitting the box up, so that it’s much more clear what I’m looking for, or else making a list (who doesn’t love a list?) of everything and where it belongs. It never ceases to amaze me, when I look at this game, just what precisely is the actual base game.

I’ve played the tutorial three times now, as well as one of the “proper” case files once. The tutorial game is a bit drab by comparison to the main game, as I think a lot of other commentators have said. When I played the game last week, I did veer away from the tutorial and found it to be a bit better. You’re still going up against an incessant number of frogs though, which does get a bit boring… I think if you had the retail core set and played this tutorial, without any of the additional bits and bobs, I could well imagine a lot of people might feel this is hardly a game worth keeping.

Once you get past the tutorial game, of course, things can be pretty exciting. There is some level of customisation available through the Requisition cards, something that is almost tucked into the back of the rule book, but which does give a bit more to the game. In a two-player game, you get 8 points to spread around among the agents, from extra equipment to backup agents. The main thing, though, is getting to play with more of those wonderful minis that are weighing the box down so much!

Rasputin is of course a classic Hellboy villain, especially after his appearance in the film, and it was great to play against him in my one and only game outside of the tutorial game. But looking through the Kickstarter bits and pieces, and trying to get a sense of what it all is in there, and I’m particularly intrigued by the idea of the Unexpected Threats. This mechanic allows you to include up to three random enemies in the deck of doom – so you have the chance to come up against Ilsa Haupstein or Karl Ruprecht Kroenen, which again is rather magnificent to see! The scenarios are mainly geared towards that final Big Boss confrontation, while the comics do have a lot of small threats because so many of them are short stories.

The Kickstarter box comes full of stuff that supports the BPRD Archives expansion, a way to allow for near-infinite replayability to the game. The main Archives expansion comes with a series of generic case file cards, split into seven types, which are put together to create a custom scenario to play. So it’s a bit like a guided custom thing, if that makes sense. There are cards which determine the setup, the minions, and so on, providing random twists as we go much like the main case files. I think it’s really cool to see the expansions building on this, though, and giving yet more cards to feed into this custom generator. I’ve not really dabbled much at all with the expansion yet, mainly just looking through it all to see what’s in there. But there is something of the random nature of the Hellboy comics that comes through here, with the support to allow for games against random witches and swarms of bats.

With the additional amount of Kickstarter content, though, the possible case files become kinda ridiculous in their scope, and it really feels like an endless array of stuff that you’ve got to enjoy. I think this is an expansion that I can see being one of the go-to sets in the future, where I just fancy a bit of a random game involving all manner of weird stuff. I mean, while it seems meant to be completely random, there’s nothing to stop you from pre-selecting a couple from each deck, and then making the final selection random, to help give a bit more theme. Or perhaps pre-selecting the final confrontation, and the journey there will be a bit more random? The scope is fairly huge, really!

I’ve not made a tremendous amount of in-roads with the Box Full of Evil, either, but that thing is also choc-full of miniatures! It contains two expansions, plus additional bits and pieces from the original Kickstarter, such as the Oni and the Floating Heads. The sheer amount of options for this game is staggering, to say the least, and it’s going to take a long time to work through things! I suppose that’s part of the issue, of course, because the game has almost been designed for built-in replayability, with a myriad of monsters and such that make no two games exactly the same. It does this almost at the expense of any kind of campaign system, but then the comics don’t really tell a linear story.

But then, as I’ve said before, I kinda like the fact that this is a game that you can set up and play, without worrying about any bookkeeping. It’s nice to have the RPG feel of a campaign brought into some games, for sure – but some games are just nice to pick up and play, you know? And Hellboy is definitely one such game, designed for straightforward fun with next to no fuss. The co-op aspect is fantastic too, and the fact you can decide on the order of each agent’s actions, rather than each agent taking their whole turn at once, is a fantastic way to keep the whole group involved. I’ve read a few reviews where people recommend three agents at a minimum, and I can definitely see me trying this at my next game; two seems much more all-or-nothing, somehow. Certainly, in my last game we had our asses handed to us by the Giant Frog Monster!

That’s for sure part of the appeal of this game, however. It feels like it’s straight out of the comics, where Hellboy is routinely thrown into a brick wall by a wayward tentacle (gonna be sore in the mornin’!) but nobody is an absolute pushover if the team works together. It’s definitely one that I want to play more often, so hopefully I’ll be talking again about the game before we see the end of 2021!

Arkham Horror: Third Edition

Hey everybody,
Today’s game day blog has been a long time coming, let me tell you! Today, I’m finally getting round to talking about the third edition of Arkham Horror! I first played this game in January, and have been meaning to do a first impressions blog pretty much ever since! Having recently returned to board games to some extent, though, I thought now would be a good time to feature this game here. So, without further ado, let’s dive in!

Arkham Horror 3rd edition

The third edition of Arkham Horror came out in 2018, so I’m already late to the party. It’s had a pretty huge makeover since the second edition, as well, no longer having the traditional board that represents the city of Arkham, but rather a series of tiles that are interconnected to form the map for each scenario. This is now most definitely a scenario-driven game, as opposed to the classic “just try to survive” of the earlier version, which I suppose could be boiled down to the same game each time you play it, just with various tweaks and so forth.

Arkham Horror 3rd edition

Third edition is built to give you a new experience each time, through the use of scenarios tied to the Great Old Ones, rather than simply going up against them that we’re used to. The game was redesigned by Nikki Valens, who was also heavily involved (if not responsible for) the ongoing development of Eldritch Horror after the core set, and so there are a number of classic Arkham Files beats coming through loud and clear.

Arkham Horror 3rd edition

Each scenario has got its own win condition, and you don’t always know what you need to do to win. This was a little bit disconcerting to me at first, because I had a bit of AP as I tried to decide what to do with my actions. But then I just embraced it all and it’s actually an incredibly effective and thematic way to go about this type of game! The game uses this idea of the “codex”, a collection of cards placed next to the scenario sheet, which represents the changing objectives throughout the game. So you’re not simply trying to gather clues to throw at the monster, or whatever, and there are both success and failure paths to follow as the story unfolds. It takes some getting used to, but it’s actually really nice and very flavourful when you get into it.

The game is played across 4 Phases. To start with, there’s the action phase, where the investigators get to do their thing. The monster phase comes next, with monsters moving and attacking the investigators. The AI for monsters is somehow slicker than 2nd edition, which was itself quite nicely done. Here, they either move to a specific investigator, or to a specific location, or they just cause chaos by adding doom. Monsters are represented with cards in this edition though, which is a little more tricky to manage on the board than the tokens of 2nd edition or other Arkham games.

Arkham Horror 3rd edition

The encounter phase is next, and this is similar to other iterations where you draw a card and have a short adventure, usually involving a skill test of some sort. Some encounters have been seeded into the deck by the scenario, and will allow you to further the investigation with clues. The last phase is the mythos phase, where players draw a token from the mythos cup, and resolve its effect. These can spawn clues to spawn monsters, resolve the reckoning effects of cards in play, or resolving a headline – a new type of card that kind of acts a little like mythos cards of old. The tokens are interesting because there are also blank ones, which add an element of surprise, but you also don’t throw them back into the bag after drawing them until all have been drawn, so you can get an idea for how good or bad a mythos phase is going to be, based on what has already come out.

At its core, third edition is very much a blend of second edition and Eldritch Horror, with some new or streamlined elements that make it feel very much like a new game. While I’ve been happy to play and replay second edition many times, I think third edition has an increased replayability simply from the scenario aspect. The Codex is a very interesting idea as well, as it contains a bunch of numbered cards that are added in as determined by how the game is going, but are used in varying ways across the scenarios, allowing for some interesting gameplay as time goes on.

Arkham Horror 3rd edition

Gates don’t really exist in this edition – instead we have Anomalies, which don’t appear in every scenario, but are functionally the same as Gates of old. You can enter an Anomaly and have an encounter, which might help to seal it, or you can attempt to Ward Doom to prevent one opening in the first place. An interesting addition is the Remnant token, which some monsters leave behind when you defeat them, or from removing multiple Doom tokens with a Ward Doom action. They can later be spent for profit or to help with casting spells, which I find super thematic!

Third edition is a very different, very interesting game that I think definitely needs a lot more exploration to see what it has to offer. I find it a very interesting amalgamation, between Eldritch Horror and Arkham Horror second edition. There are also elements from the card game present, in terms of how the game is strongly tied towards the scenario, and being a big fan of that game it is very nice to see.

I do like second edition, and the opportunity that it has for telling your own stories. I do love Eldritch Horror, and the global scale of adventure and exploration that it gives us. I also love the card game, as has been well-chronicled here on this blog over the last twelve months! This third edition doesn’t have anything that I could say really detracts from it, in my view. It’s a solid addition to the game line, pulling elements from across several other games to make something very thematic from the previous version.

So far, we’ve had two small box expansions, and one big-box, coming at a rate of one per year. So we’re seeing a fairly steady stream, but nothing that seems to be difficult to keep up with. In a new move for me, I’ve not bought into any of these yet, although I have been eyeing up the most recent one, Secrets of the Order, as I love anything to do with the Order of the Silver Twilight! It will be interesting to see how these expansions integrate into the base game, in the fullness of time of course! For now, I definitely need to try and play the core set some more, even if I just play each of the four scenarios once! 

A board game ramble

Hey everybody,
My big news for September is that I’ve actually been playing real-life games with real-life people once again! We went away for a week with the in-laws, and my brother-in-law brought Ticket to Ride: Europe along. It’s something he’d mentioned back at Christmas time, but with all the lockdowns and whatnot, we hadn’t really pursued the idea. Being a gateway game, it was perfect for the whole family to get together (although with six adults and a five-player game, it did mean that there was someone left over to act as the baby monitor…) I have played it a few times back in my heyday of gaming, but had since sold off because I had so many games that were going unplayed. Well, it looks like my wife is a bit of a convert, and so we might be investing at some point! I still have the app on my tablet though, so can always get some games in with the pass-and-play function there. But it was tremendous to be gaming once more, I have to say!

Ticket to Ride is one of those games that is so delightfully easy to pick up, and the strategy comes in actually playing the game, and not hidden within a plethora of rules, that I find it really a lot of fun. Sure, you can end up with turn after turn of not being able to do anything, but I suppose that’s the luck of the draw. I also don’t find it all that super-competitive to play so that I end up getting stressed by those types of empty turns. It was quite refreshing to play, after having spent a lot of time with Warhammer 40k! 

It also got me thinking about my relationship with board games nowadays, and this is something that was reinforced when I read this blog at the weekend. I strongly suggest you read this, as it is a very insightful look into the state of board games these days, and I echo a lot of the sentiments quite a great deal. Kickstarter games seem to have taken over the board game market these days, leading to a saturation that leaves me a bit confused about the lay of the land today. Due to the way Kickstarter works, games are only available for a short space of time and then gone, with very few making it to the shelves of the local store. There’s no “catalogue” to speak of, just a continual raft of new games, selling this cult of the new and the shiny.

It makes me a bit sad, because I feel like we’ve left those days of board games like A Touch of Evil or Runebound, and nowadays everything needs to come with a bucket load of miniatures to have that sort of mass-appeal. I think that the Hellboy board game is a case in point for me here. True, it was put out by Mantic, who do make miniatures games, and was designed by the chap who led the redesign on Necromunda, so there is a provenance there. But I’ve got some pretty huge boxes of stuff under my bed, which I really need to take a look at. But isn’t that just symptomatic of these types of big games, which have a lot of set-up and a lot of effort for a game, whereas you could be playing something like Ticket to Ride inside of a couple of minutes? I do still enjoy the kinds of games that can take you a whole afternoon, don’t get me wrong – I mean, I’m a 40k player, after all! – but so often with Kickstarter games, it seems to be the case that the rules are complex and dense, making for a long game because you’re trying to work out how to play it. Games like Runebound can go long because you’re playing for a long time, not because you’re constantly referring back to the rulebook!

I’ve been thinking quite a bit about the Hellboy game though, as it’s one of my favourite fictional universes, and one that I want to delve into more. The game seems a perfect vehicle for that, as we have a lot of elements from both the Hellboy and BPRD graphic novel storylines to discover. I think having a massive box of miniatures has put me off a little bit, though, as it has turned into something a little bit intimidating to work through. I can still remember my wonder when opening that honking big box of stuff, and seeing all of the various gribblies, and getting pretty excited for what this game was going to be, but then playing it seemed to fall a little flat as I just didn’t get the sense of exploration or whatever. I guess I need to give it more of a chance, but time is not something that I have a lot of these days!

For all that Kickstarter games have that allure, I have found myself selling them off because I don’t have the storage or the inclination to climb that mountain of miniatures that they come with! I’m not trying to bash these of course, and if you’re a Kickstarter fan, there’s no problem with that. For me, I find them pretty exhausting, and sometimes, they’re not even that good when it comes down to the actual gameplay. Shadows of Brimstone was a big case in point for me on that score, and I definitely had my fingers burnt with that one.

My regular gaming buddy Tony has long been a huge KS devotee, and together with his boyfriend Lee they’ve invested thousands into these types of big, miniatures-heavy, multiple-expansions-at-once sorts of games – to the point where they actually have too many games to ever really play and enjoy. Most of them have either never been played, or they might have been cracked open once to give it a go and that will be it. The half-dozen expansions that were part of the stretch goals are either still in the shrinkwrap or else have been looked at, and then returned to their boxes.

It’s quite sad, really, and I am also guilty of this, with the expansions for the Hellboy game that I’ve picked up still lying unwrapped under the bed. I definitely need to look at that one again, as I remember it being pretty good, but it seems so symptomatic of this whole situation – I’ve played that game three times, back when it was delivered in April 2019, but that has been it. Meanwhile, I’ve been playing Arkham Horror and Lord of the Rings quite a lot! Once that shiny and new has worn off, how great are these games in comparison with the old favourites?

I’m not about to launch into a sort of “back in the day” rant, but part of me does harken back to the time where you’d buy a game, then maybe 8-12 months later there’d be an expansion, then over the course of the next year you might get a couple more. With the Kickstarter model becoming seemingly more prevalent, you pretty much buy a game with at least half a dozen expansions in there as well. It seems a bit skewed and, in the case of me with the Hellboy box, it seems confusing when you have a whole bunch of stuff, only a small portion of which is actually meant to form the core game. But I do realise that is perhaps more of an issue with some companies, whereas others will provide a retail-level of game for you right off the bat, all nicely separated into their respective expansion boxes. I think the Hellboy box that I have is the equivalent of core set, two big expansions and about 4 smaller boxes.

The board gaming landscape has definitely changed, and I’m not so sure I want to keep up with it anymore. Like I said, though, if it works for you, then that’s great. I’m not really sure the new way is for me, anymore. I’ll pick up the Arkham Horror LCG for as long as that runs, but I don’t think there has really been anything that has grabbed my attention for a few years now in the mainstream (non-KS) market. Which I find weird, because I used to be such a fan of Fantasy Flight, but they appear to have really run themselves into the ground. Remember when the In-Flight Report would be an event at GenCon? When we’d have genuine excitement over what is going to come next from the company? Doesn’t really seem like there’s much going on now, outside of a couple of card games. Though I would guess that’s more on how Asmodee are choosing to run things.

There is also the other factor to consider, how my own circumstances have changed. I suppose I’ve moved from being a board gamer to being a wargamer, and have kept the small handful of games that I know I enjoy, but by and large I’m not all that open to buying a £40 game on a whim when that £40 could be spent on a new unit for one of my armies! I’ve become so much more invested in tabletop wargaming that I seem to prefer to spend my time marshalling the plastic crack, rather than playing board games. But the will is still there, of course, in the way that I enjoy stuff like Blackstone Fortress, how I’m looking at the new Kill Team and so on. I think I still want to play board games, and I will most likely still be writing about them here on the blog, though this has now primarily become a Warhammer 40k platform with the occasional card game thrown in!

I haven’t played games with Tony for years, and of course the pandemic hasn’t helped there, but we’ve been talking about recapturing the good old days, and I’m hopeful that soon, when things settle down a bit more with the kids and we can reliably have the evenings back, that we can maybe look at getting some games to the table. Perhaps play a few rounds of Magic as well, properly capturing the old game days (though with fewer 3am finishes…)

So, what was the point of this ramble? Well, I guess it’s just something that has been running round a lot in my head for a while now, and after reading Tavendale’s blog it got me thinking more and more about it. I’m not sure I have anything particularly enlightening to say, but it’s nice to get these things down on paper every so often, maybe spark some debate, or whatever!

Horror in your Dreams!

Hey everyone,
It’s game day here at spalanz.com, and for today’s festive offering, I’m attempting to revive my custom of playing Eldritch Horror! There are still a couple of expansions that haven’t yet made it onto the blog, so today I’m going to investigate The Dreamlands, a big box expansion that first came out back in 2017.

Eldritch Horror: The Dreamlands

As with both of the previous big box expansions, Mountains of Madness and Under the Pyramids, The Dreamlands comes with a new side board for the main game, featuring locations from HP Lovecraft’s Dream-Cycle stories such as Ulthar and Dylath-Leen. Travel between these boards is, however, much easier than previously seen, as an investigator can either spend 1 clue or test Will -1 while performing a Rest action, and immediately move to the Enchanted Wood location. During set-up, three gates are drawn from the gate stack, ensuring each is for a location not on the Dreamlands board – these locations then receive Dream Portals which also link the boards together. It’s all quite thematic, and depending on where the locations of the Dream Portals are, can make things fairly straightforward to travel back and forth.

Eldritch Horror: The Dreamlands

The expansion is very much in the vein of more of the same, as we follow the now-established formula for these things, with two new Ancient Ones, about eight new investigators all from the Arkham Files universe, more cards for the base game locations as well as item decks, and then cards for the new board, and in this case an Expedition-style deck called the Dreamquest deck, which functions in the same way as previous iterations by giving you more complex encounters to follow. There are, of course, Prelude cards that allow you to determine how you’re going to use the new content if you like to structure things that way, and there is a small deck of Adventure cards that work with the Dreamlands board if you aren’t using a Dreamlands Ancient One.

Eldritch Horror: The Dreamlands

For my first game, I went up against Atlach-Nacha, created by Clark Ashton Smith as the spider god who spins a web between Hyperborea and the Dreamlands. I seem to recall always being fairly creeped-out when playing against this Ancient One in Arkham Horror, though that’s likely due to my arachnophobia. Here, Atlach-Nacha feels like a fairly straightforward Ancient One to overcome – it is more than likely down to the Mysteries that I drew, of course, but I didn’t feel like there was a great struggle as I went around the boards. True, only one of the three mysteries that I drew required me to have Research Encounters, so whereas normally I can be a little bit frustrated with the lack of clues spawning and so forth, here it didn’t really come to pass. I was also very lucky with Luke Robinson gaining the friendship of the cat unique asset which grants you five clues, as this happened just when I needed it!

Atlach-Nacha

The second Ancient One included in the box is Hypnos, who I’m fairly sure has been upgraded from simply a Herald (or was he a Guardian?) in Arkham Horror. Hypnos always works with the Dreamlands board, and has some fairly interesting mechanics for advancing his mysteries. He also has three separate decks of special encounters, which is really neat!

However, I feel like neither of these Ancient Ones is particularly nasty.

I don’t mean this to sound in any way disdainful when I say that this expansion gives us more variety without really breaking any of the rules of the base game, because it really isn’t a bad thing. Eldritch Horror has, in many ways, provided nothing but more of the same in each expansion. The Focus mechanic is back from Mountains of Madness, and that is pretty much the only change from the base game. Everything else is self-explanatory once you start playing, and while we get some tweaks on existing concepts (more Conditions that are actually boons, for example), there’s very little to confuse the uninitiated.

The eight investigators included are all familiar faces with new artwork, some of them are quite welcome having been staples from the core set of Arkham Horror, but only now making their appearance here.

There isn’t really a great deal more that can be said, if I’m honest – the expansion provides much of what we’re used to seeing from Eldritch Horror at this point, and continues the trend as we would expect it. The side board is interesting, with some thematic stuff going on to enjoy, and overall any fan of the base game will appreciate this for its strong ties in to the theme of the source material. I don’t think I’d say it is my favourite of the Eldritch Horror expansions, but it does its job well, and that’s all that we can ask!

Eldritch Horror: The Dreamlands

Expanding the Mansion

Inside abandoned hospitals, secret laboratories, and forgotten cellars, scientists are conducting depraved experiments that will drag humanity to the brink of the abyss. Only a small group of investigators can discover the truth and put an end to these mad plots before it’s too late…

Mansions of Madness Forbidden Alchemy


The first expansion for Mansions of Madness, Forbidden Alchemy, delves into the sort of laboratory horror that filters through some of HP Lovecraft’s short stories, as we look at the strange goings-on in the private laboratories of crazed scientists. It’s been three years since I looked at the base game on this blog, and even though a lot has happened in that time, including a second edition of the game and me selling off my own copy of the first edition. But I still want to get round to exploring the expansions here, almost as a retrospective or comparative, looking at how things have been implemented across the variety of Lovecraft games in the stable!

Mansions of Madness Forbidden Alchemy


Forbidden Alchemy is the type of small-box expansion for the game that gives us very much more of the same. We get some new investigators, again some classics from the Arkham Horror stable, and classic monsters like the Byakhee. There is, of course, the over-arching theme of mad scientists and the like, but in the main the expansion is fairly straightforward, if I’m honest. I always find it quite curious when talking about expansions like these – they’re the sort of expansion that I appreciate, because sometimes when I like a game, I just want more of the same. Sometimes an expansion for a game will greatly change the base game, almost to the point where you wonder if you’re playing the same thing, and while that can be nice to change things up a bit, sometimes you just want a new hero to try out, or whatever.

Mansions of Madness Forbidden Alchemy

There are new puzzles in this box, themed of course around Alchemy, although these do change things up from the base game’s puzzles in that you don’t have the same kind of correlation between the investigator’s intellect and what they’re trying to do, but instead it’s all a bit random. Very thematic for the expansion, but I don’t think they’re necessarily better than the earlier puzzles.

The expansion is wonderful, though, for the scenarios it includes, featuring none other than Herbert West and his foul experiments! Crawling hands trying to grab the investigators when they least expect it… nice!

Mansions of Madness Call of the Wild

Call of the Wild was the big box expansion for the game, which featured a slew of new components for the game, and was themed somewhat around the Dunwich Horror. We go outside of the mansion this time around, and have scenarios that actually involve that forsaken hill where the Horror was banished. 

Mansions of Madness Call of the Wild

This expansion literally blows the game wide open, not only simply by virtue of being outside, but a lot of the structure of Mansions of Madness has gone, but in a good way. You’re not forced to follow a specific chain of clues to reach the objective, but rather can gather clues with almost total freedom. This sea-change necessarily means that the stacking of Objectives has also been replaced with a more flexible kind of end game in sight, and it’s really quite something!

There is a scenario that is a sort of whodunnit, where you can question townsfolk and gain them as allies as you try to discover a cult leader; there is a scenario where the investigators are trying to hide ritual pieces that the keeper is trying to discover, in order to enact a pre-chosen ritual. There’s a weird sort of dungeon-crawl type of scenario where you’re trying to escape a misty forest, and you build the map as you go. 

Mansions of Madness Call of the Wild

We also have the Dunwich Horror itself, in a scenario that sees the keeper trying to summon it, and the investigators trying to complete tasks set for them by Zebulon Whateley in order to foil these summoning efforts. 

It’s really everything you’d expect from a big-box expansion, though. The altered gameplay that comes from being outside and not having to complete the clues in strict order, along with a raft of stuff that, some of it being highly themed to the new set, but still can be added in to the base game if you so wish. 

Mansions of Madness is one of the great Ameritrash games where the theme is prioritised over everything else, although of course this game doesn’t just paste a theme onto some random basic game engine. There is so much going on in any game that it can make for a really immersive experience. The expansions are very nice additions, although Forbidden Alchemy did have a lot of trouble when it first came out, requiring the inclusion of a set of cards to replace “broken” components of the game. That did make for a very confusing box opening, I must say!

What I find quite interesting about this game is how it chooses to implement the mythos side of things. Call of the Wild is nothing like Dunwich Horror for Arkham Horror, or The Dunwich Legacy cycle for the LCG. It’s probably closest to the latter, in that both games take aspects from the source material and re-imagine them, but MoM has an extremely tenuous link to the Lovecraft tale, while at least the LCG tells a fairly compelling tale set in the aftermath of the story itself. 

Forbidden Alchemy has no real antecedent in the other mythos games, of course, although it does scratch a very nice itch from the source material. Lovecraft himself was very interested in modern science, and I think if he had had the money, would absolutely have been one of those gentlemen scientists with a private lab in the basement. Quite a few of his stories include some form of science, with tales like Herbert West – Reanimator and Cool Air having almost the main focus of the story being on pushing the limits of scientific discovery. It’s definitely a lot of fun to see that given some attention within FFG’s stable of Lovecraft-themed games, in my view!

Mansions of Madness is now in its second edition, where the keeper has been replaced with an app, allowing for a fully-cooperative game experience. I’ve not really looking all that closely at the second edition, having pretty much downsized my collection when I moved house last year to a core of games that I regularly played, and the Cthulhu-themed games were pretty heavily hit. To all appearances, though, MoM2 is going well, with the most recent expansion, Path of the Serpent, being released twelve months ago. With five expansions that all look to be somewhat along the lines of big box entries, it definitely seems to be doing well for itself!

Dipping into Madness…

Hey everybody,
Today is once again game day here at spalanz.com, as I was lucky enough to get some time to myself yesterday where I could actually play some games! I know, it was quite spooky really! My daughter is now thirteen months old, and is certainly in more of a routine where I can plan stuff like this, so it was definitely time to grab that while I could!

I managed two games, along a similar theme, and it was just glorious.

First up, we have Eldritch Horror. This is one of my all-time favourite games of globetrotting mystery and supernatural dread, although it suffers somewhat for being such a juggernaut to set up! This time around, it took some time for me to get back into the swing of things, although I think it was literally just one round for each of the investigators – Mark Harrigan and Diana Stanley – before it all came flooding back, and I was off! I chose these investigators because I had finally actually read that little introductory blurb at the start of the rulebook, where it seems to be the pair of them looking into the weird occult mysteries of the world…

I followed this up with Arkham Horror LCG, a game that I have been trying to get back into for a couple of weeks now. I have built two new decks since I last played back in the summer of 2019 (when I actually ran through the entire Dunwich Legacy campaign). Roland Banks is the first investigator that I ever used, and even though I’ve not exactly played this game a lot, I have something of a soft spot for him all the same. Akachi Onyele is usually a very powerful investigator in the other Arkham games, though I’ve played two games with this duo now and it’s clear already that she really needs the right spells out to be any good. That’s probably a bit harsh, but in the game yesterday, I noticed particularly how she just couldn’t really do anything before I had Wither out, whereupon she became more of a tank than the Guardian investigator!

I’ve really gotten back into the whole Cthulhu mythos and Arkham Files games lately, and part of me is now really annoyed with myself for having sold off my Arkham Horror 2nd edition collection last year. I got a good price for it, don’t get me wrong, but it was such a good game, and I never got round to featuring each one of the expansions on the blog before it went.

However, I’ve found myself looking into getting the 3rd edition for Christmas, so that will be quite nice when the festive season is finally here! Definitely need stuff to look forward to as we’re on the cusp of a new lockdown, as well!

Eldritch Horror was just lovely to get back on the table, I must say. I’ve still got a couple of expansions for that game to feature up here, so I’m thinking that I’ll get back into the tradition of looking at those roundabout Christmas time! Indeed, playing yesterday’s game was mostly about getting back into the game so that I could look at playing the expansions – seems like I’ve only played some of them once or twice, but The Dreamlands box is still in the shrinkwrap! I’m really behind with the times here.

I kinda fell away from the Arkham Horror LCG last year, thinking that I was barely playing it anyway, so didn’t buy any of the Dream-Eaters cycle as I had three full campaigns still to play through. However, I’m now thinking that I need to catch up with it all! I’d spent a few days recently looking into it all as if from scratch, and have sleeved all of my cards and bought the ‘Return to’ boxes to make sure everything is stored up properly, so I’m really finding myself quite hungry for more now!

Having taken that time to get to know the game again, though, I can definitely see myself playing this one for a long time yet. It seems as though the Dunwich Legacy campaign is fairly tame in comparison to some of the later ones, and a lot of people seem to favour the Path to Carcosa set, so I’m thinking that my next proper foray will be there – everything is ready for me, anyway!

Interestingly, now that Lord of the Rings has finished, I’m finding myself almost moving away from that game in favour of this one. For sure, I’m not going to be sacking off my collection of the older game, as I’ve had far too much fun with it over the years to want to be without it, but I think that game did seem to suffer a little for the designers’ efforts in making it more challenging. Mirkwood and Dwarrowdelf are still the high watermark for me, although I’ve not played so many cycles from the game I could be selling it short. However, with Arkham, it seems to have been designed as fairly tough from the outset, but the variable difficulty of the Chaos Bag allows for it to still be enjoyable. In fact, as I think I’ve talked about before, the game really benefits from not being a simple kill-the-monsters sort of thing that Lord of the Rings can sometimes become – the encounter deck for Arkham is very often full of treachery cards, with just a couple of enemies to keep things interesting. There are so many different moving parts in the game that keep things moving, so that the formula allows for much greater variety on the whole.

Like I say, I’m not getting rid of Lord of the Rings, but I do feel that Arkham Horror has overtaken it in my affections lately!

Warcry up for pre-order

Hey everybody
It’s finally time for Warcry to emerge from the haze of the fairly bland internet previews and come up for pre-order! I thought this day would never come – I’d actually been growing a little bored waiting for the announcement, and had begun to lose faith it would be of any interest, given the complete lack of anything beyond previews of the models themselves.

Don’t get me wrong, those previews were showing off some pretty spectacular models, I just wanted to know more about what the hell the game is, and so it was with no small measure of joy that I discovered the “how to play” video finally uploaded yesterday:

Visual Appeal
The game looks amazing. I mean, I’m really blown away by the aesthetic that GW have captured here. The warbands included in the starter set have a totally unique look to them, and while there is definitely something to be said for the classic Slaves to Darkness look of the old Warriors of Chaos, these new models really capture the look of the classic Warhammer berzerkers of old. While it is of course set firmly within the Age of Sigmar universe, taking place at the Eight Points (more in a bit), there is still something very Old World about some of these minis. I think the Untamed Beasts warband in particular give off that Conan vibe that was almost the hallmark of old GW, pulling together and synthesizing so many disparate elements from classic fantasy into their own setting.

The terrain is just mind-blowing, though. I mean, sure, we’ve had ruins and archways like this before, most recently with the Azyrite Ruins set, these things are just phenomenal. I think the most impressive aspect we have here is that the terrain is designed to be multi-level, so we have all of these walkways, bridges and ladders that bring up the idea of Mordheim from all those years ago. Is Warcry meant to be Mordheim for the modern era? I have no idea, having never played the older game. But it has the feel of a classic in the making, with some fairly straightforward rules that should get you up and playing very quickly.

The Rules
Warcry uses a fairly straightforward system of rules, with some flavour from the current 40k set in terms of the strength vs toughness mechanic. The initiative is a very interesting idea, where you both want the duplicate rolls so as to employ powerful abilities within the game, but you also want to roll singles so as to give you a higher chance of going first. The additional die you get to add to your pool will lead to some pretty difficult tactical decisions, I’m sure!

The actual rules seem to be quite straightforward, and predominantly close-quarters focused. While there does appear to be some ranged combat possible, from what I’ve seen so far it does seem to be around the 3″ max range. Which is in fitting with the sort of skirmish game that a board densely packed with scenery like this would suggest…

All of the glyphs and runes that appear across the fighter cards really add something to the feel of the game, being as it is set in the realms of roving Chaos bands. It was a really nice idea to provide that additional feel to the game, I think.

First thoughts
There is a definite boardgame feel to this one, I think. People have been calling it Kill Team for AoS, including the designers, and I can sort of see that, but it also feels like much more its own thing. There are elements of Kill Team, though it feels a lot more like Necromunda to me – instead of gangs, we have warbands, but these are models that are specifically created for this game. I’ve heard somewhere on the e-grapevine that there will be rules for these warbands to be used as Slaves to Darkness stand-ins in regular Age of Sigmar games, which is cool and all, but I do like the idea that we have a distinct and separate game that is its own thing.

At first, I was one of those people a bit surprised that this was solely a Chaos vs Chaos game, and while there are rules to include other factions such as Stormcast Eternals, Idoneth Deepkin and Nighthaunt in the game, I get the impression that the design is really focused on these individual Chaos bands, with the six we’ve already had previewed as well as two additional bands that we have yet to see any models for.

Even the new scenery feels like it is intended purely for these Chaos warbands to fight over. The game is set in the Eight Points, what was once the Allpoints, the mystical crossing-point between all of the Mortal Realms, but that has since been captured by Archaon and fallen into Chaos and ruin. Warring factions now compete for the favour of the Everchosen, and that’s really what the game is all about. It feels almost weird to be bringing in Daughters of Khaine into this, though I must admit that the idea did cross my mind to pick up some models…!

The Future
I had kinda forgotten about this game. I’d certainly lost some interest in it, after waiting for months since the initial announcement with no news on what it was, beyond the fact it features Chaos on Chaos violence and had some very attractive miniatures. With the ability to add in regular AoS miniatures, the game will have a lot of traction, I’d guess, and while there does seem to be some mixed reactions overall, I think the general impression is a favourable one of the new miniatures.

With the two additional warbands – Spire Tyrants and Scions of the Flame – as well as the promise of further warbands for the game coming, I’d guess there will be a decent amount of life in this one. Kill Team has the benefit of having a wealth of miniatures to choose from across the entire 40k range, and so far GW have only seen fit to create two brand new teams for that game. As such, it has really taken off and flown with the number of expansions available for it already.

I get the impression the opposite may well be in store for us here. We’ve seen six warbands, making me think those miniatures are ready to go now, and it won’t be too long before all six of them are out in the wild (three of them are available for pre-order this weekend, even if the Wild Beasts and Iron Golems are stuck within the core box). A Kill Team-like approach has been taken with repackaging older terrain sets for this game, with the second such pack announced at today’s AoS Open Day, but I could totally see something like the Rogue Trader box coming out later in the year with those final two bands, side by side with some more terrain to supplement that from the core box, as well as maybe some rules tweaks or something.

Of course, there is always the possibility that we’ll see some rules, further down the line, that bring some of the Shadespire warbands into the mix. I’m not overly familiar with that game, though have been enjoying painting up a couple of those warbands, but from what I’ve heard, there is a similar feel to both – even down to the glyphs to denote the mechanics of the game. Shadespire / Nightvault (and the upcoming Beastgrave also announced at the Open Day) is also organised into these small-scale warbands, of course, and while some of them are perhaps on the smaller side (such as the Stormcast), bands like the Godsworn Hunt or the Sepulchral Guard have a similar feel as regards the model count, and the Darkoath models perfectly fit with the aesthetic of warring Chaos tribes.

Of course, if we do end up seeing a similar situation to that of Kill Team last year, we’ll be seeing all of that sweet new scenery, repackaged and expanded upon – that has got to be reason enough to want this to be the AoS version of Kill Team, right?! The terrain is already fantastic; I can only begin to wonder at how it could be expanded upon!!

At any rate, I’m really happy to announce that I think Warcry could well be the next big thing for me, and I’m really keen to get my hands on all of that plastic to get building, painting and playing!

Games updates!

Hey everybody!
I may be in the middle of moving house, but I’m still trying to keep abreast of all the goings-on in the games world! There is, after all, quite a great deal happening in the world, and I feel like it’s a glorious time for us nerds as we move into the summer.

First up, I want to talk about Lord of the Rings, and the first pack preview for the upcoming Vengeance of Mordor cycle.

After your adventures in A Shadow in the East, Dorwinion seems to be bright and beautiful, free from the taint of evil that the mysterious cult had swept over the land. After a month of peaceful travel, your band of adventurers have made their way back to the capital city to enjoy one last night of the citizens’ hospitality before returning home. You are glad for the rest, but your thoughts cannot help but drift back to the horrors you witnessed in the shadow of Mordor, and wonder whether the evil has truly been rooted out.

Your fears are confirmed when you awake in the middle of the night to the sounds of clashing steel and cries of fear pouring in from the streets. The enemy has gotten Inside the Walls. Thane Ulchor, a traitor to Dorwinion, has returned to the city with an army of Easterlings. His agents within the city slew the guards and opened the gate to let them in, and now the battle rages in the streets. It is up to you to defend the helpless citizens, support the city guard, and push back the invading forces before the city falls into the clutches of darkness.

I feel very much like this cycle is setting itself up a little like Against the Shadow, which was an urban cycle focused on Gondor, and began with a pack set in the city with the task of rooting out a traitor. While comparisons can be made with controlling locations and Assault on Osgiliath, I think this one could be quite interesting, with the locations you control having effects on them that remain in play even after the card has left play.

Of course, the most interesting aspect of this pack is the new Tom Bombadil ally card, which is shuffled into the encounter deck if you manage to play a copy of the Tom Bombadillo! card from your hand. It’s an interesting way to bring in an ally like this – previously, they’ve been included in the encounter deck as Objectives. It’s exciting to see that the game is still bringing us new ways to play, even this far in the game’s history.

I’ve not been playing Lord of the Rings nearly as much as I’d like to this year, though I have rediscovered my love for the adventure card game with Arkham Horror LCG, and recently picked up the Return to Night of the Zealot box from my local store. While I’ve finally made it to playing The Dunwich Legacy, I think it might be fun to give this one a try and see how much more difficult the additional cards make things!

I’m still not caught up with the current cycle, which I think has now seen the final pack released, but I am looking forward to the next box already, as it looks really interesting with its dual-planes of play. I’ve already talked about this in a previous blog, of course, but I really need to catch up with this game and put some time aside to really investigate what it has to offer. I mean, it’s really not that I dislike the game, it just doesn’t seem to have the table-time that I think it needs. Symptomatic of the times, of course, as I don’t seem to be playing anywhere near as much as I’d like. I guess I’m mainly painting miniatures these days, which brings me on to…

Warcry, the skirmish game set in the Mortal Realms, the game I’d nearly forgotten about with everything else going on, has had another warband revealed, and it is just weird!

The Unmade are just…well, weird! They look like some wonderful Drukhari experiment or something, and I can probably see myself getting hold of some of these models simply to paint, though I’m not sure if they’ve taken the spot of the Iron Golems as my favourite.

They look… I don’t know, almost too-40k. Especially that elongated champion-like figure. Very much John Blanche-esque, make no mistake!

They could also make some useful Cultists for 40k, thinking about it…

Model of the set is probably this chap with the chain, though. The models coming out of Nottingham these days are all pretty amazing, but the sense of movement in these warbands is just phenomenal, and I thought it just looks really, really cool!

Of course,

Where the hell did this come from?! Talisman: Batman?! Not only a re-skin of the classic game, but a Super Villains edition, where you navigate the hallways of Arkham Asylum, evading Batman to free the inmates! Sounds hilarious, and it’s always interesting when you have the opportunity to play as the villains!

I’m actually trying to thin out the boardgames collection once more, as space is currently at a premium while we get settled in the new house and prepare for the arrival of the firstborn, but it is definitely very tempting, I have to say!!

Core Set 2020 is now out, with no real storyline as such (well, it’s a Core Set, so…) but focusing on the life of everybody’s favourite pyromancer, Chandra Nalaar. The set focuses on three-colour wedges, which I like because it’s the first time we’re seeing this since Tarkir block, the set that I really started playing in. I’ve not played in prerelease, of course, but I would like to get my hands on some of those cards for my decks!

There is always something quite nice about a new Magic set, and especially seeing a Core Set again. I’m really trying hard not to fall into the spiral of the cardboard crack, but Magic is probably the best one-on-one card game experience I can think of, so I think it will always be there in some form, and I enjoy collecting at least a few cards from each set and seeing what I can do with them!