Cthulhu on the horizon!

Hey everybody!
It’s game day here at spalanz.com, and today I want to talk about some of the news from FFG about new Cthulhu-themed games coming on the horizon that I’ve only recently had the time to digest (the new Star Wars trailer dropping has primarily been responsible for my tardiness here!) So let’s kick off the Halloween season with a look at the next big box expansion for Eldritch Horror: Masks of Nyarlathotep!

Masks of Nyarlathotep

This was an expansion that was both entirely expected, and yet completely blew me away with the announcement last week. I mean, for sure we would be getting Nyarlathotep in the game soon enough – it’s a Cthulhu mythos game, what would it be without the wearer of a thousand masks? But I had entirely been expecting to see him in a small-box expansion, with some specific Mask monsters, and nothing more than that. Oh, how wrong I was!

Masks of Nyarlathotep introduces a campaign mode of play to Eldritch Horror, and currently we only have a few lines towards the end of the announcement that tell us what is involved here:

When taking on a Campaign, players will need to win multiple games, with consequences and benefits carrying over to the next game after each threat is sealed away from the world. If stopping any single Ancient One seems an impossible task, can the investigators possibly hope to succeed as these otherworldly beings attack one after another?

However, earlier in the article we learn that there are several cults springing up across the world, each seeming to worship a different entity, and it’s up to the investigators to stop them. While my first thoughts about campaign play were that we could play games using different expansions, and they would all somehow feature into this mode, I think rather it will be implemented as more self-contained within this box. I’m going to guess, then, that this expansion won’t have a new sideboard, but instead will just be choc-full of cards that allow for several different gameplay experiences, maybe even mini-Ancient Ones like the Heralds from Arkham Horror, all of which will add up to some climactic endgame against Nyarlathotep himself. Nyarlathotep will still appear as a more regular AO if you want to just play a straight game with him involved, but for the campaign mode he’s probably going to have some kind of mechanic that makes him stronger the more Mask villains we don’t defeat, or something.

We’ll see in Q1, 2018!

Omens of the Pharaoh

The next bit of news I was really happy to see was the new Elder Sign expansion, Omens of the Pharaoh!

Have you played Elder Sign: Omens? It’s a pretty good re-interpretation of the card game for Android/iOS, and features an expansion based on the sinister goings-on in Egypt. The Dark Pharaoh, Nephren-ka, has already made it into Eldritch Horror of course, and now he’s making his malevolent presence felt here, too!

I really like how the new mode for Elder Sign has allowed games to move out of the museum. Don’t get me wrong, I still love the classic game where you’re wandering the deserted exhibits at night, but Omens of Ice was an incredibly flavourful (and difficult!) game, and while I still haven’t managed to get round to Omens of the Deep, I’m sure that will also be a delight.

Whoever made the connection between having locations to explore inside a museum, and locations in a more general sense, should definitely feel a deep sense of pride at that achievement!

Adding the Egyptian horror feel to this game is definitely something to be pleased about, as it’s a classic setting for the mythos, though if we’ve already had the frozen Alaskan wilderness, the deep sea and now Egypt, I wonder whether this line of ‘Omens of’ expansions can continue for much longer? I’m guessing there will be an Amazonian jungle (or some kind of tropical theme) expansion at some point, but then what?

FFG’s Lovecraftian games are always a true delight, and I cannot wait to add both of these games to my collection when they arrive early next year!

No time for games?

Hey everybody,
It’s another game day here at spalanz.com, and today I thought I’d deviate from the norm, and ramble a little more than usual in what may turn out to be a shorter blog. It’s something that I’ve been thinking about a lot lately, at any rate, so why not!

Long-term readers of this blog, aside from being a handsome bunch, will no doubt be aware of the fact that I moved house recently. I actually bought a house, which itself is something of an achievement, of course! But it comes with a lot of attendant responsibility, naturally, and the particular house that I’ve moved to has been in need of a little work. It’s not falling apart, but it’s not how I’d like it, you know? Anyway. I guess my energy has been channeled into that, leaving me with very little time for anything else.

It may be that increased sense of responsibility, or the increased financial responsibility if nothing else, but I’m finding myself with no real time – and crucially, no real inclination – to play games. In the couple of months since I started packing up my life, I’ve managed three games of Warhammer 40k, which in itself, is an intriguing achievement, but nothing else.

new games

Part of the reason for this, I feel, is that I’m still getting the measure of the new place, and where I can do things. The dining table that I used to play on, which used to be sat in front of a window in my old flat, is now in a comparatively darker corner, and doesn’t lend itself well to long gaming sessions.

In a recent effort to combat this, however, I bought myself The Dreamlands expansion for Eldritch Horror, which has of course been out for a number of months now, but which I hadn’t yet managed to pick up. I thought, getting myself something I’d thought about for a while, for a game that I do very much enjoy, might bring me out of this gaming funk. However, after a week sat at the top of my stairs, I’ve now put it away with the other expansions for that game, largely unlooked-at. It’s a similar story with Path to Carcosa, which I’d picked up the other week in an effort to kick-start my campaign idea for the Arkham Horror LCG, but which has also remained unopened since I bought it.

I suppose this could well just be me over-reacting to a temporary situation, as I try to readjust to the new surroundings and stuff. I do have walls to paint and a kitchen to replace, and have been spending more time at DIY stores than I have been with games, but once the house is more to my liking, I’d guess I’ll be back to it. I’m having some vague ideas about trying to get my girlfriend into playing some games, so that could also be an opening.

The new Magic set, Ixalan, is releasing on Friday, and while I’ve been a bit out of things during the last few months with Amonkhet block going on, I have perked up some more at the thought of vampires and pirates and dinosaurs all running around, so if nothing else, I’m hopeful that I can get some more decks built and see some more cards played!

I’m very curious as to how long this situation is going to last, at any rate…

I’m back!

Well folks, it’s been a roller-coaster of a time, moving house with all manner of internet problems, but I’m now back!

Been taking a look around at what I’ve missed, and blimey! There’s so much good stuff! I don’t really know where to start, but I’ve just noticed this, take a look!

It’s the miniatures game I’d been hoping for back when FFG had the licence. Imperial Assault is good, don’t get me wrong, but I always enjoyed Star Wars Miniatures back in the day, and this looks like it could be similar!

Oh my god, you guys – it’s Necromunda! Obviously, I wasn’t in on this back when it was first came out in the 90s, but after all of the hype back when Shadow War Armageddon came out, I got interested in the older game. And lo! The classic is now coming back. Exciting times! The minis previewed on the Warhammer Community website don’t really look all that great, though, I have to admit – I think it’s probably more to do with the paint job, of course… I guess we’ll see!

I need to take a look at the rest of the stuff I’ve missed over the last couple of weeks… Hope you’ve all been having an excellent summer so far!

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…