Gaming Reflections

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ghostbusters: the board game

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Game Day!

Hey everybody,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anyway…

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

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

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

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

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

What’s next, FFG?

Something interesting has been going on, over on Fantasy Flight’s twitter account. A series of posts, detailing a group of people who all have the colour red in common, presented in the Eldritch Horror style – it’s verrrrry interesting, and I need to know more!

It all started with Amaranth, here, who was featured way back in the Call of Cthulhu LCG as a Conspirator character type. Well, there’s a whole cast of these guys now, as FFG has slowly fed them to us over the past week!

The consensus seems to be that this is all linked to the next campaign for Arkham Horror LCG, supposedly titled The Scarlet Keys, based on a leaked product list from December last year. That’s interesting, because it lines up with this card from the older LCG, which came out in the globe-trotting Ancient Relics cycle. Those six packs took us all over the world, including China, Greece and Antarctica. Now, I know that currently the sense of place in Arkham Horror LCG has been confined pretty narrowly to a small area per campaign – even Path to Carcosa didn’t stray far from northern France once it had crossed the Atlantic.

I hope that we have some kind of global adventure where we have to choose which members of the Congress of the Keys to pursue, which could tailor the campaign in a certain way. Of course, that might lead to some unused content in the box, if we choose to not go to Havana for example, but I suppose it might be much more advantageous to explore them all. But this method of campaign is much easier to do in the new style, rather than creating optional mythos packs, so could well be on the cards (pun intended) for future big box stuff!

The possibility of getting a truly globe-trotting campaign, where each scenario takes place in another country, is particularly intriguing. However, if we don’t quite end up with the card game version of Eldritch Horror, I would like to cast my vote right now for it being China-centric. There is so much to get excited for in that realm, I think, and it would really capture my imagination for sure. Given that the new big-box format is said to allow for greater storytelling opportunities, I’m positively quivering with the prospect of what this could all mean!!

But, of course, this could be for something entirely different, maybe a completely new Arkham Files game? Maybe Eldritch Horror 2.0?

I hope not, but you never know…

Games, Games, Games!

Last week, my wife said the words every guy wants to hear: shall we have a regular game night?

Awesome!

For our first game of the new season, as it were, we got Elder Sign to the table, and started against Yog Sothoth – which was just vicious! We started out as Amanda Sharpe and Gloria Goldberg, but the Museum cards were just so brutal that we were pretty much on an uphill slog from the get-go. It wasn’t impossible per se, but even with Amanda’s ability to complete multiple tasks per roll of the dice, I did find it very difficult. Indeed, Gloria was devoured within about two turns! We went through a succession of investigators, each one was pretty much on a conveyor belt as they turned up, stuck around for maybe a turn or two, then was devoured.

Perhaps inevitably, then, Yog Sothoth woke up and for maybe only the second time I was faced with having to defeat an Ancient One by removing doom. To start with, it was going okay – by this point, we’d made it through to Carolyn Fern and Jenny Barnes – and we removed quite a bit of doom. Then of course, we plateaued. Fortunately, we had amassed enough trophies between the two of us that we were able to keep discarding them through all of this, but with still three doom tokens on him, our final couple of trophies were discarded, and we were devoured forever.

It was a really good game, despite the lack of success! I think Elder Sign sometimes has the reputation for being a walk in the park, hence why later expansions deemed it necessary to make things much more difficult. However, it just goes to show that with the wrong combinations of investigators and location cards, we started on the back foot and things only got worse from there. I honestly don’t think any of the location cards we pulled was particularly easy, and many times we found ourselves failing tasks as a result.


But we’re going to be playing more, which is exciting stuff, so I’m looking forward to working through each of the Ancient Ones in the core game, and then Jemma has said we should also work through the expansions, which is really exciting! I’ve played with Unseen Forces a few times now, but I’m fairly sure that stuff like Gates of Arkham and Omens of Ice have only hit the table once each, and Omens of the Pharaoh and Omens of the Deep have never been played with – indeed, the tokens sheet was still shrinkwrapped in each of the boxes!

I’m really looking forward to seeing what each of these expansions has to offer, and there will doubtless be more reports here on the blog when I do! I’ve also recently bought Ticket to Ride and the Charms & Potions expansion for the Harry Potter deck building game, so that’s very exciting, as well!

Moving on!

Last night, I had my first game of Tau in 9th edition, my first game with Tau since June 2018 and 8th edition, and my first game of 40k in what feels like months! Fortunately, I don’t think I was particularly rusty with the rules. JP was playing Imperial Fists, which was a revelation, as he has only ever played Word Bearers in all the time I’ve known him, so we both didn’t really know what we were doing…

I was playing according to the plans and thoughts laid out in this blog, so was really happy that I had remembered to actually write all of this stuff out beforehand, as I could just reference it when needed! I think that was probably the first big difference, because while I wasn’t entirely sure what I was doing, I was still prepared, but JP wasn’t prepared with his Fists. I don’t mean that unkindly, just that there wasn’t really a plan that took into account stratagems and so on.

We were playing the Crossfire mission, albeit on a square table rather than the usual rectangle. I was able to get first turn, which proved to be incredibly powerful as I was able to move my Pathfinders into position securely knowing that I would not be overly exposing them by doing so. As such, they snagged me two additional objectives, and were able to light up a lot of the board with markerlight tokens. Between the first Pathfinder squad and the Breacher squad, I was able to eliminate a squad of Primaris marines (and I forgot about the markerlight buff while doing so – learning point number one!) Then moving on to the Redemptor Dreadnought, my Crisis team was able to get rid of that in combination with the Strike squad. I used the Relentless Fusillade stratagem to double the shots and improve AP by 1, then the Coordinated Engagement stratagem to further improve the AP by 1, on top of having chosen Mont’ka to improve the AP by 1 for all shooting within 18”. I forgot about the Coordinated Engagement on the Crisis team, but my Fire Warriors were making 20 shots at AP-4, which is worth it just for the hilarity factor. As such, the Dreadnought was eliminated in short order.

The second group of Pathfinders then shot the Primaris Eliminators off the board, with some assistance from the Commander, whose final volleys helped to soften up the Impulsor tank. Two hours of my shooting phase later, and I had wiped out three entire units, and controlled three of the four objective markers, meaning I was already up 7 victory points. There wasn’t a great deal that could then be done, though JP was actually able to wipe out that second Pathfinder squad in a single round of close combat, thanks to the Assault Intercessors making a ridiculous number of attacks on the charge.

In the end, I lost the Pathfinder team, two Crisis suits, and a single Fire Warrior. Due to the fact that it was already getting late, and we were only having a learning game anyway, we called it after the first turn, but I think this will definitely bear further exploration as time goes on, as I really enjoyed the army, regardless of the victory.

There were definitely some learning points on my side of the table as well, though. For starters, drones are people too (kinda) – I had been treating them as basically unit upgrades and not thinking of them as actual models. As such, that second Pathfinder squad shouldn’t have been wiped out, as there were still 5 wounds remaining from the drones. Secondly, there is a very tasty stratagem called Pulse Onslaught for Fire Warriors, which makes 6s auto-wound. I think it was the Strike Squad that rolled about seven 6s to hit, which would have been quite wonderful, but no matter. My third learning point is around the Commander, who allows for nearby Core units to re-roll hits of 1, and also for nearby Core units to advance a straight 8”. As it happens, I rolled a 6 for my Breacher squad and was therefore able to advance them enough to claim the objective they were sat on for the game, backing up the Pathfinders there. But it would be handy to remember!

I do quite like the Breacher team, as they were able to play a key part in removing the unit of Primaris marines, thanks to the Breach and Clear stratagem that allows for re-rolls of wound rolls, and also denies cover. However, while this brings me on to where to go next with the army, I think I’m actually going to favour the Strike team instead as my third unit of troops, giving the unit pulse carbines rather than pulse rifles for a more mobile team. I think this could work quite well, having the unit with pulse rifles remaining fairly stationary for the battle, as they still have the stratagem to double the shots so they don’t need to move into rapid fire range to do damage. I can then have the pulse carbines moving into position to set up that Coordinated Engagement, and potentially have both units doling out 20 shots each, AP-3 for the carbines and AP-4 for the rifles. With judicious use of the Commander to allow for them to re-roll hits of 1, that could be very nice indeed.

I’m definitely thinking about swapping out the Ethereal for the Cadre Fireblade, as this guy gives pulse weapons within 6” exploding 6s to hit, and also has the ability to allow for re-roll of 1s to hit, giving the Commander more flexibility to cover the field. He also has a markerlight, which I’m thinking will be key to the battle here, as it basically allows for the troops to hit on 3s as well, which stacks up something dreadful. I mean, what other basic troop choice has the firepower for 20 shots to hit on 3s, re-rolling 1s, and 6s get additional shots and auto-wound; wounding (potentially) on 3s, at AP-4?

I’m still intent on not letting this army get away from me, though, so I don’t want to plan for all manner of horribleness and end up with too much to paint. I already have the Crisis team and Ethereal primed but not painted, and I built the Breacher squad ready for this game, but now have 23 models that need painting because of this! It makes me uneasy, so I’m not about to go building the Ghostkeel or something, just to have more toys to play with at the expense of drastically increasing the painting load!

There’s doubtless more to be said about the Tau, and I definitely think I’m back wanting to get them painted again! So that was very good!

The End of the Horror

Hey everybody,
Tuesday is of course game day here at spalanz.com, and a Yuletide Tuesday can only mean one thing – let’s play Eldritch Horror! It’s been a wild ride over the last few years, but we’ve reached the final expansion for that tremendous game: welcome to my Christmastime review of Masks of Nyarlathotep! This big box expansion was released three years ago now, and has been languishing untouched for far too long – so I am very pleased to have finally gotten round to playing a game with it! Up to now, though, I have only played one game, so this is very much a first impressions sort of blog, rather than an exhaustive review!

The expansion comes in a big box, but it’s worth noting right off the bat that there is no side board in this one. Curious, for many, especially because the content is only slightly more expansive than that of a small box expansion, but I suppose the amount of work that has gone into this box needs to be taken into account. So let’s start looking at what we get for our money!

Comparisons are bound to be made with Arkham Horror, of course, being the former big-box boardgame set in this universe, and it’s interesting to me that there is the inclusion in here of a mechanic that is lifted straight from the older game – personal stories. These are small cards that you take control of at the start of the game for your investigator – only two cards per investigator, though the entire game line is represented here, going right back to the core set, so don’t worry if you think someone might be missed! The front of the first card has a copy of that investigator’s picture, then the back tells you what they’re trying to do. When that condition has been met, you get to move to the front of the second card, which will give you a permanent boost effect for the remainder of the game. The story also has a second condition to watch for, however, which is usually determined by the game itself; if that is met, then you flip the second card and gain a permanent burden instead. For example, if Daisy Walker takes a rest action and spends 5 clues, she gains her permanent boost, which is to gain a free Tome asset, and in addition she reduces the sanity loss from Tome assets by 1. However, if she’s reduced to 1 health or 1 sanity, she gains the amnesia condition (or discards 1 clue or 1 spell if she already has the amnesia condition). All of the cards include their respective expansion symbol, too, so you know where they came from (and can sort them into those expansions, if you so wish).

It’s a very nice side-quest effect to have as part of the game, though I always feel like these things take something of a back seat to the actual game itself, especially in the game I was playing, which was against the new Ancient One, Nyarlathotep himself! There are two Ancient Ones in the box, which I guess bumps this up from a small box expansion. Nyarlathotep comes with just four mysteries, two special encounters and a wad of research encounters as we’d expect, and also a deck of four Adventures. We first saw this mechanic back in Mountains of Madness, of course, though here the Adventure is much more central to the story, as each of Nyarlathotep’s mysteries is tied to one of the Adventures, and completing that Adventure will solve the mystery. As a bit of mitigation, then, you only need to solve 2 mysteries to win, but it was a nice way to implement his Masks mechanic that is so integral to the character in other Arkham Files games. Each Adventure is linked with one of the Masks, such as the Bloated Woman or the Dark Pharaoh. The investigators are tasked with essentially stopping these cults to solve the mysteries, which I thought was a very interesting way of implementing this. I was also on the right hand side of the board for the longest time that I think I have ever played in this game! Each cult is linked to a part of the world, mainly Africa, Shanghai and Australia. Having Sefina Rousseau as one of my investigators helped in that sense, then, as she starts in Sydney after all! Nyarlathotep’s Cultists give out Corruption conditions, which allows for you to gain benefits at the expense of gathering Eldritch Tokens – if an investigator ever has tokens equal to their max sanity, they are devoured. It’s definitely an interesting mechanic, and I think this is perhaps the craziest incarnation of the Crawling Chaos that we’ve seen – he’s come a long way from being one of the simplest Ancient Ones to defeat in Arkham Horror!

The other Ancient One is Antediluvium, a reference to the Biblical flood. In game terms, we seem to be attempting to put down cultist uprisings, this time represented by a new take on the Mystic Ruins encounter deck that we last saw in the Strange Remnants small box expansion. The Ruins deck this time features encounters in Atlantis, Hyperborea, Mu and Pnakotus, so once again they’re really spreading out across the board. It’s a wonderful idea, and one that I had hoped we would see more of when Eldritch Horror first came out – the bland, numbered spaces on the board are all in specific locations, after all! There are no special encounters for Antediluvium, instead just a bunch of research encounters and the standard 6 mysteries, three of which are needed for victory. Taken side by side with Nyarlathotep, I find Antediluvium to be a little bit boring, though they are united by having the theme of international cultist rings, and I do like the new Mystic Ruins deck.

Seven new investigators join the team, rounding out the cast with a couple of new faces that were first seen in the second edition of Mansions of Madness, such as Agatha Crane and Carson Sinclair. Many of these feel like old timers now though, through their inclusion in the Arkham Horror LCG! Masks of Nyarlathotep brings the total number of investigators available for the game up to 55, which beats out Arkham Horror by 7, as it happens! There are some new monsters, including a horrific Star Vampire, and some new Epic Monsters. We get a dozen new Prelude cards to help make games of Eldritch Horror more varied and interesting, and we get three new gate tokens for the generic numbered spaces – Hyperborea, R’yleh, and Atlantis. New assets, unique assets, conditions, spells and artifacts round out the box.

One of the selling points for this box was the new campaign system, which seemed to fall pretty flat when it was released. I think that’s not entirely unfounded – a single page that describes the process doesn’t really seem a lot, after all. In a nutshell, you play six games with the same investigators, and if you’re devoured then you’re permanently out. Surviving investigators don’t come across to the next game with all possessions, but conditions do survive. It’s quite thematic, and I suppose it’s really not a bad way of doing this, but given how we’ve seen campaigns develop for other games, it does feel a bit simplistic.

That said, I don’t think I play something like Eldritch Horror for the campaign idea. I’ve said something similar when talking about the Hellboy board game a few weeks ago, but I do like the idea of a game existing on its own, and being played for the sake of the game, not as another step on the ladder, or whatever. Games of Eldritch Horror have fluctuated fairly wildly for me, either taking 1-2 hours max, or an entire evening. And I would rather keep it as a game that takes a while but one that I don’t feel it necessary to make more regular time for. I mean, I haven’t played a game of this since last year’s Dreamlands game, and that’s fine. (I mean, it isn’t, because I really enjoy it and would love to play more of it! But you know what I mean!)

As a finale to Eldritch Horror, I think it does fall a tiny bit flat. I don’t know if it was designed to be a full stop for the game, or whether there had been plans for more expansions that ended up shelved, but I think there could have perhaps been more added if it was in fact designed to finish off the product line. More generic encounters, maybe? Or more cards that allowed for mixing of expansions, much like Miskatonic Horror for the older game? I don’t really know how that could be implemented, as the Prelude mechanic seems to be a decent way of treating the whole game line as a big sandbox, but I’m sure there could be more done there. As it is, that big box does feel a little empty in comparison with other entries in the line, and that kinda makes me a bit sad for it as a whole. But this is the trap that I’ve previously warned against, and we need to take it on what is in there: Nyarlathotep is a fairly complex Ancient One, and I imagine he would have cheapened any small box by requiring so much content. It’s great to have him as part of the game, and his companion deity does provide another good opportunity to revisit the Mystic Ruins idea. We then have more of the same, in the great tradition of Eldritch Horror expansions, with the Personal Stories forming a nice little addition and gives content to the entire game series. Overall, I’m very pleased to have this stuff available for me to play with for many years to come, I suppose I just wish the game had gone out with more of a bang!

Now that I’ve explored each of the expansions for the game, I’d like to continue with covering Eldritch Horror with more gameplay style blogs, maybe with some degree of storytelling as each game unfolds. The game I played with this expansion ended up with many such storytelling points, including Sefina gaining a Dark Pact and going well down the wrong road, while Daniela really levelled herself up as a monster-hunting beast! There will no doubt be fun times ahead for the blog as I carry forth this plan, so stay tuned for this, and more!

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!