Marvel Champions: personal best

It’s the end of my Marvel Champions week here at spalanz.com. For today’s post, I thought I’d keep it a bit more on the sub-theme of the week, playing through all the new stuff that I’ve now got for the game. I’ve got a lot of content for this game now, and I’ve had the chance to go through quite a great deal of it all. So today’s finale post is very much a summary of what I like out of everything that I’ve been playing!

To start with, let’s talk about the Heroes!

Marvel Champions

Despite all the new heroes that I’ve been playing with, I still find myself really enjoying Justice Spider-Man. I think there’s the strong element of nostalgia, if you can call it that, for him being the first hero that I played with. I’ve kept him in Justice, as well, and I find myself evaluating pretty much every Justice card that I buy against this deck. I really enjoyed pairing him with my Aggro Iron Man deck, as well, not just for the fact it’s a bit on-theme for the MCU mentor relationship between the two, but also because the pair of them seem to be able to cover a lot of bases really well.

I think one of the best things about playing the Spider-Man deck is how it can often feel like you have an answer to everything. He has his web kick for 8 damage, he can dodge all damage coming his way with a backflip, and being in Justice, he is able to remove threat – often with added bonuses, like dealing more damage if he defeats schemes, and stuff. Some great moments have come from Spidey when he’s done 8 damage (or more!), stayed in hero form for the villain phase, drawn a card when an attack is instigated against him, and simply backflipped his way from 4 or 5 damage with ease. Definitely on-theme for the nimble web warrior!

In terms of favourite heroes to pair with Spider-Man, I think it’s going to be a toss-up between Iron Man and Captain Marvel. Iron Man is great at dealing damage in the aggro deck that I have for him, but Captain Marvel is also a very effective hero too, so having both of them in play can lead to some very nice games. Sometimes, of course, those games are over quite quickly, but a win is always welcome!

Marvel Champions

Gamora was a stand-out hero for me when I first played her. While I’ve not played the Guardians expansion that much, each time I have it’s been with her and Star-Lord, and she has been the absolute star of that show. Interestingly, I’ve also been playing her deck as it comes, so she’s mainly aggro but can take up to six off-Aspect cards that must be either attack or thwart actions. I think it’s that kind of flexibility that makes her shine, really – pretty much any time a hero breaks the deck construction rules, you know it’s going to be quite powerful. Allowing her to take even just these six off-Aspect cards can mean you just give her the absolute best you can find in your collection. However, it’s not just this, but her hero specific cards work so well with attack and thwart actions, the deck just hums along really, really well.

A recent discovery for me in terms of precons is Black Widow, of course, and I’ve talked about how her deck is just amazing earlier in the week. The way her Preparation cards work within her deck really makes it feel like you’re playing the spy with a plan (and a back up plan). I think my first ever game with her saw me draw into a lot of the good stuff, meaning I was able to set up really nicely and therefore nothing was really a problem for me. Second game I spent a lot of time trying to get the Winter Soldier out, so it was a little hairy, but I still managed to prevail. The deck just works really well, and I can’t say any fairer than that!

Talking about favourite heroes is all well and good, of course, but the game is nothing without the villains! Now, I’ve not played against them all, for sure, but there are a lot of good ones among the rabble that I want to talk about, as they can definitely make for some really fun games, even when they’re beating us!

Marvel Champions

First up has got to be Crossbones. I was really looking forward to getting hold of the Red Skull box, as I love the whole Hydra mythos within Marvel. I’ve probably said this on the blog before, but I’ve been out of the comics world for about 15 years now, so pretty much all of my knowledge comes from the MCU. Crossbones was a new one on me until I realised he’s the guy in Captain America Winter Soldier, one of my favourite movies in the franchise, so I was excited to play against him. He also uses a lot of Hydra modular encounter sets, so that really excites me. He’s a good villain to go up against, because he’s not easy as such, especially when he gets more and more weapons attached to him, but he’s also not super difficult so the game can actually feel enjoyable, and not miserable. 

There are quite a few villains that I have enjoyed, although I need to play against them some more as I don’t always think a single game against anyone is a good yardstick. Mysterio was a lot of fun, from Sinister Motives. I did enjoy his whole thing with encounter cards going into player decks, that was a good touch. Nebula from Galaxy’s Most Wanted was another game I seem to remember as being good – a lot of reviews speak negatively of that box, of course, but I can’t say that I particularly noticed it. I know The Collector always comes in for some stick, but his mechanics were definitely interesting (once I had worked out the right way of playing, of course!)

Marvel Champions

Speaking of that, there is of course a bit of a trend for games to become more complex over time. Not quite like power creep that we often see with cards gaining in power, but just the amount of moving parts in a game becomes quite something. For example, I recently played Sabretooth from the Mutant Genesis box, and there is so much going on with the villain on his own, the fact that his scenario also has the whole rescue-a-senator thing added in to it makes it quite complicated when you first come to it. I think I could have possibly beaten the scenario a lot quicker if I had realised that actually, you can get by without rescuing Senator Kelly at all, especially given the fact he’s such a hindrance to you when you do get him.

The Tower Defence scenario from Mad Titan’s Shadow was also guilty of this, having two villains out and all the rest of it. Again, I think I need to play it again now that I know how it’s supposed to work, but there’s so much going on that it feels overly-complicated to play. 

Let’s not get too negative, though! I still have a few more villains to go up against, and I am particularly looking forward to trying out the Sentinels scenarios in the X-Men box, as well as the Venom scenario from Sinister Motives. I still haven’t played against Ultron from the core set, as it happens, so I definitely want to try my luck there, and I am waiting for my LGS to get the Kang scenario pack in stock so that I can try my luck against him, too.

In terms of heroes, I’m quite keen to give Shadowcat a go from the X-Men box, and I think I’m going to pick up Wolverine soon to try him out, as well. I really wanted to like Cyclops, but I couldn’t seem to figure out his deck when I first played him; I’ve taken a look though, and I think it might be interesting to pair him with Shadowcat to see how that turns out. I’ve heard very good things about the two heroes from Sinister Motives, as well, so I want to give those a try soon too. I also want to try Adam Warlock, as he has a very interesting deck idea in that he can use cards from all four Aspects, but only a single copy of each one.

Marvel Champions

There’s a lot still waiting for me to discover, for sure!

But what about the future? At the time of writing, the current rumours are pointing to at least one more cycle of X-Men, possibly two, so we aren’t going to have Fantastic Four anytime soon! I’m assuming the next wave of X-Men will involve the likes of Beast, Ice Man and Angel, although a lot of folks have been positing for X-Force, so Cable, Domino and so on. Deadpool keeps coming up, but I find myself shuddering at the thought of that. (I’m really not a fan of Deadpool). While we’ve had some of the classic X-Men villains, we still have the likes of Mister Sinister, the Hellfire Club, Apocalypse and even those that have already appeared in nemesis sets, like Mystique or Juggernaut.

Looking further ahead, I’m sure we’ll be due for a Fantastic Four cycle at some point, as that is a team just crying out for the Marvel Champions treatment. Getting characters like the Four themselves, Silver Surfer, Namor, Puppet Master, Galactus and Dr Doom would be just amazing, and I cannot wait! However, the biggest thing for me would be to finally get the street-level heroes, Daredevil, Elektra and so on. Actually, I’m not that fussed on the likes of Punisher or Jessica Jones, I just want Daredevil and Elektra hero packs! Give me a Kingpin villain, with Bullseye, Typhoid Mary, Echo and Tombstone in the box, and I’d be a happy chap indeed!

There’s so much still to come for this game that I think it has a long future ahead. Hopefully that isn’t the kiss of death, of course, but I am hopeful that we’ll continue to get great content for a long time yet!


Well folks, we’re now at the end of the week with Marvel Champions! I hope this mini-series of blogs has been entertaining in some way for you, especially if you play the game already! If you don’t, hopefully it’s shown you what you’re missing, and maybe even inspired you to pick it up for yourself!

Marvel Champions: going your own way

Marvel Champions week is almost over here on the blog, but we’re not at the end yet! Following yesterday’s post about playing with the preconstructed decks that form the expansion structure of the game, today I’m going in the opposite direction, and looking at building my own decks for the game.

I’ve been a card gamer for years now, and in that time I must have spent months just going through piles of cards for any given game, trying to evaluate them for play. So even though I’m still fairly new to this game, I am an old hand at building a deck, and like to think I know enough of what I’m doing to jump into this particular pool early on. Of course, knowledge of the game allows you to better understand the relative worth of the cards you’re looking to include in your deck, and a lot of that will come through trial and error.

Marvel Champions

When I played my first game of Marvel Champions, using Spider-Man and his suggested precon, I think I could see very early on how there were certain cards in there I would just never use. The unique resource mechanic of Marvel Champions almost guarantees that no card would be wasted in any deck, as it can always be discarded for a resource if you don’t want to play it for the effect. It’s definitely true that I look to include cards for their resource functionality as well, but what a card does is also pretty critical, for me. In the case of Spider-Man and the Justice deck, I know that I don’t like to gamble much when it comes to taking damage, so I knew very early on that I would cut Great Responsibility from the deck. As I got to play with Spider-Man more, I realised that I wasn’t using him for his base thwart, so could also very easily cut Heroic Intuition.

While these cards are never wasted, because I can always use them to generate resources, I prefer to build decks on the assumption that I will actually use the card for what it does, rather than because it could be a resource. That way, I’m never faced with the problem of having a hand of cards that are basically resources, which I don’t want to play for their effects. The flip side to that is that my turns can often be agonising events where each card I’ve drawn is really good, and useful, and I don’t want to have to discard a Swinging Web Kick to pay for anything!!

I’m not intending to write a deck building manual for Marvel Champions, as there are much better-qualified players out there than me who have already done that. However, this blog is intended very much as how I go about building my decks, so maybe you’ll find it useful by seeing a bit of my thought process, which I know tends more to the weird and wonderful when it comes to this stuff!!

I would say that Marvel Champions is unique among the games that I play, because building a deck for it can be relatively easy. While it’s not quite Star Wars LCG levels of “pick ten objective cards, and your deck will be built”, it is probably the next best thing. A deck for Marvel Champions must be between 40 and 50 cards, and common wisdom is to keep it as low as possible so that you have the best chance of finding your good cards when you need them. However, some heroes will be fine with bigger decks – Iron Man springs to mind as being able to move through his deck quickly, so you can potentially build a 50 card deck for him and it won’t be so bad.

Of those 40 cards, your hero will bring 15 along with them, so you’re already only looking to build a deck of 25 cards. While it is possible that you can build a singleton deck, in reality you’ll want to include a couple of cards in multiple, because you’ll either want to increase your chances of finding them, or you’ll want to benefit from the effect multiple times. Some cards can only be included once in a deck, either because of uniqueness or limitations on the card itself. For instance, there are the three neutral resource cards which can only be included once, and your Aspect resource doubler card, which can only be included twice. If you include those (and while I know a lot of internet folks will tell you not to, but why wouldn’t you want more resources?) then you’re looking at a 20-card deck that you need to build. If you include three allies, because that’s the ally limit, then you’ve got to find 17 more cards. If you find 5 good cards and include two copies of each, you then only need to find 7 more cards. The process to build this 40 card deck can be whittled down until actually it’s just a case of finding a few cards that you like the look of, and going from there.

Marvel Champions

I’ve already mentioned my Spider-Man deck as something I’m quite pleased with, and it’s something that has grown with me from the very start of this game. For someone who is not overly bothered with the webslinger, I have definitely played with this hero the most! My approach to Spider-Man Justice was to include a number of ways to remove threat from the scheme, because he has some pretty good attacks and defence cards in his personal cards already. As my card collection grew, and I was getting more cards that did more than just thwart, things were being swapped in and out quite rapidly. As it stands, he’s quite a powerful character at the minute because his is a deck that I have spent the most time with, and I would say that he’s the one I evaluate pretty much any Justice card against.

Marvel Champions

Captain Marvel has been another joy to work with, although that is principally due to her hero cards being so good. I’ve built her as Protection, I think primarily because I had been playing her as Aggro, but moved on to using those cards for Iron Man. As it happens, this change happened around the time I started buying more packs, and so I was getting a number of very interesting Protection cards whereby a hero could deflect damage back at enemies, for example, and so a lot of her deck is dealing almost accidental damage, if that makes sense! Coupled with the fact she is pretty damn powerful anyway, it’s another fun deck that I enjoy playing.

Also in Protection is Black Panther, which caused a bit of trouble for me at first because I had already used a lot of the good cards for Captain Marvel! This is perhaps where the hero specific cards come into play, however, as the way that I would evaluate a card changes, based on what I want the deck to do. When it comes to Captain Marvel, she’s doing a lot of damage through her own cards, so she doesn’t necessarily need all of those cards that reflect the damage back to an enemy during the villain phase. Black Panther has no shortage of resource cards within his deck, of course, so he can afford to bring much more expensive cards because they won’t end up being used as resources due to having no way of playing them. I’ve been able to lean more into the healing aspect of Protection with Black Panther, though, which is nice to have that kind of flexibility within the Aspect, but also it’s nice to have that real sort of team-spirit when playing the game, so having the healer, the brute, etc.

Marvel Champions

The last deck that I have “scratch built” is Iron Man, in the aforementioned Aggro build. Unsurprisingly, then, he has a lot of cards that are basically there to beat the living daylights out of enemies. However, Iron Man can be quite a janky hero to play, I find, due to the fact his hand size in hero mode is based on how many Tech upgrades he has, but will be a minimum of 1. Due to bad draws, I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve ended up playing him basically every other turn, as he requires re-setting to Alter Ego to draw cards, then plays them in Hero form, only to then need to switch back on the next turn and therefore do nothing, etc.

Much like with Spider-Man and the thwart cards getting better, there are now more attack cards that will do additional things, which I like because it makes the deck a lot more multi-functional, but also I love the value you get from multiple effects. While I have had some despairing games with Iron Man due to lack of drawing any upgrades, I’ve also had a few where it’s almost been an embarrassment of riches as I draw all the good stuff and can’t decide which cards to ditch for resources, and which to keep!

However, for all that there are fancy new cards that are available in the later packs, I do find the core set stuff provides a backbone for these decks, regardless. It’s interesting, because people talk about power creep all the time with games like these, but while the newer cards do often seem like they’re flashy and amazing, it’s still core set cards that I find myself coming back to time and again. I suppose that could partly be due to the size of my collection, of course, but nevertheless, I do think that it’s interesting how the core stuff holds up for years.

My other decks are pretty much slight tinkerings with the pre-constructed decks for heroes like Captain America, Doctor Strange, Spectrum and the like. Interestingly, the Star-Lord precon deck that I mentioned in yesterday’s blog as being widely disparaged has only had three cards swapped out for me, and I’ve not found it that bad to play. I suppose I still have a lot of heroes where I’ve not tried them much, however, so I have plenty more life left in this game for me yet!

Marvel Champions: constructed

Marvel Champions week is in full swing here at spalanz.com, and today I wanted to talk about the distribution method for the game, and weigh up some of the pros and cons.

Marvel Champions

As you hopefully know by now, Marvel Champions is a living card game that follows, to some degree, the established pattern from Fantasy Flight by releasing content in a big box, and subsequent cycle of smaller clamshell packs. Here, the big box calls itself a campaign expansion, though I’ve already talked about my thoughts on that this week, and comes with five villains plus two hero decks. The villains add to the stable of what makes up the game, and function a bit like scenarios that you play through. You’re never really doing anything different each time – it’s always just a case of trying to defeat the villain before the main scheme is completed. The villain’s encounter deck is what makes games unique though, and what’s more, you the player can further customise it through the use of modular encounter sets that can change up how villains feel to play against.

The heroes will each come with a pre-built deck in one of the four Aspects (Justice, Leadership, Aggression and Protection). The subsequent cycle of hero decks will then bring out yet more heroes, who each come with a pre-built deck, as well as some extra cards designed to go into your collection, and that you can use to swap in to your decks to change up how your heroes play, usually one card per off-Aspect.

Each cycle also features a Scenario Pack which gives another villain to fight, meaning each cycle generally has six villains and six heroes, although the very first cycle after the core set technically had 11 heroes, and the current X-Men cycle will finish up with eight heroes.

Anyway! The pre-built decks for heroes can vary wildly in how they play, from a deck like Doctor Strange that is widely admired and is very often recommended for play as it comes, to Star-Lord that is baffling for some of the cards he comes with, and has been criticised for including Aspect cards that don’t play in accord with his Hero cards.

We’ll get more into these kinds of points in another blog, though. Today, I wanted to talk about the more positive aspects of having the preconstructed decks for heroes. The most obvious, I think, is the appeal of the game to non-gamers. Heck, even some gamers don’t like building decks to play card games like this, so to avoid having a product that would potentially only appeal to a sub-set of a niche hobby, FFG have taken the interesting route of producing content for their game that allows pretty much anyone who wants to try this game the ability to do so. If you’re a Captain America fan, then you can pick up his deck, shuffle up and play, without spending an evening (or longer) going through stacks of cards.

Cap comes with a Leadership deck, naturally, but that doesn’t mean you have to play him as a leader. A Cap Protection deck is entirely possible, of course – it just requires you to have a collection of cards from which to build a new deck. That said, it’s entirely possible that you could take the Protection cards out of Ms Marvel’s precon deck and put them together with Captain America’s Hero cards, and have fun. It might not work that well – as we’ll see, precon decks are often built to work really well with the Hero-specific cards. But it’s certainly possible!

Now, I’m a card gamer of many years, and have spent countless hours of my life going through stacks of cards to build decks for games from scratch. I think I t’s fun, and can be almost as engaging as playing the game itself, trying to find combinations of cards that should work well together. When I first got into this game, after playing my initial games with the core set suggested decks, I was aching to build my own, and as I began to buy new packs, I don’t think I used a single hero in his or her preconstructed form. Probably my inner hipster just wanted to go my own way, and I didn’t really want to be taking what I had begun to think of as the easy route. Hmph.

Marvel Champions

So I’ve been playing some games with the preconstructed Hawkeye and Black Widow decks, as I’ve gone up against the villains from the Rise of the Red Skull box.

Before I started, I hadn’t really heard a great deal about the Hawkeye deck, but Black Widow didn’t seem to be very popular, because of her reliance on Preparation cards. These are upgrades and support cards that you play, sometimes very cheaply, and can discard when their trigger is met for a certain effect. A lot of her personal cards interact with this mechanic, meaning that you would never build a deck for her without a lot of this type of card. It does make me wonder if the fact there is such a clear reliance on the Preparation cards that Black Widow is therefore not a popular choice for players?

At any rate, I have played with her a few times and had an absolute blast – it can be a little rough at times, don’t get me wrong, as it can take a bit of set-up to get things working, but in my very first game with her, the whole deck just seemed to hum along so beautifully, I was playing with such a huge grin on my face for that fact!

Marvel Champions

The issue I mentioned about Black Widow relying on her Preparation cards is perhaps compounded by the fact that the game doesn’t actually have a lot of these cards. Black Widow’s hero pack comes with them, of course, and there are cards in each Aspect included in the bonus cards at the back. Since then, however, only two other cards have been printed, one in Aggression and one in Protection. So I guess you are pretty much stuck in the Justice deck that she comes with, if you want to play Black Widow. 

Hawkeye has a Leadership build and his main thing is, naturally, arrows. Something that I was really quite impressed by with Hawkeye was how well his personal cards work – you almost have the rest of his deck there simply to provide the resources to pay for his Hero cards. In pretty much all of the games that I have played with him, I have pretty much relied on having his bow in play (which you can search for by his Alter Ego action anyway), Expert Marksman (to generate resources to pay for his arrows) and then his arrows. You exhaust his bow to shoot an arrow, but then his hero action is to ready his bow, so normally you can fire two arrows per turn, unless you have additional ways to ready him.

Those arrows are just so damn good, though, I think I would definitely look for ways to recur events from the discard pile, as well. They pretty much all do damage, of course, but they can also Stun and Confuse enemies, and remove threat from schemes. It’s just a delight, which is even more of a surprise considering I wasn’t entirely sure I would like it as much as I do!

The Leadership build that he comes with is certainly fine, and for theme I would want to keep him as that because of Kate Bishop being a Leadership card, but I think the main way his deck is going to work as I would like it to is by having a number of allies out, and then playing Earth’s Mightiest Heroes to exhaust them to ready Hawkeye, to allow him to shoot again. Bit clunky, of course, but it might need a little tinkering to see what I can come up with. I think I’d also like to investigate using different allies, though each game I’ve played has been interesting because I’ve had some team cards out with no allies to benefit from them. But anyway!

Natasha’s deck is pretty good by itself, and the cards that I would traditionally have cut in favour of others have actually been perfect for generating the resources I need to play those cards that I do want. Indeed, every game with Natasha has been fascinating to me so far, because I’ve never had a bad run with card draw – I’ve only ever had an embarrassment of riches!

Marvel Champions

This is perhaps in direct contrast to the X-Men game that I played recently. X-Men are, of course, the new kids and they have a single cycle so far. I tried out Cyclops and Storm against Sabretooth from the new Mutant Genesis box, and I was actually surprised at how different it all felt. Two Leadership decks seemed like it could be an interesting idea at first, but in execution it turned out that Storm was just using all of her personal cards, much like Hawkeye, whereas Cyclops felt very much like a hot mess. It seems to be the case that Cyclops works from attaching cards to enemies, and then using that to his (and his team’s) advantage. I really struggled to get this kind of engine going, however, and in the event, he barely did anything all game. I think there was one moment of clarity where he could attach a card to Sabretooth, then play another card to deal +8 damage to an enemy with a card attached. It was beautiful, but I think in the context of the Sabretooth scenario as well, everything just felt so damn weird! 

I think it is interesting, then, to see how a deck like Black Widow can be so damn good, Hawkeye and Storm are pretty decent, but Cyclops was just too clunky to get going. I do want to try the X-Men again, but I’m thinking I might actually go up against a different villain to see how they do. 

Having the preconstructed decks does mean that you can very much treat this game like a board game – and that is actually how I was selling it to my wife when trying to get her interested last summer. You don’t have to build a deck, you simply need to buy a deck and play with that. I think I will certainly be keeping Black Widow in her precon form, and as time goes on, I may well be doing this with more decks that I buy. I’m sure my inner hipster will recoil at that, but it’s definitely the way forward with some of the heroes!

Marvel Champions: the card game

It’s Marvel Champions week here on my blog, where I’m getting to grips with the massive influx of content for this game that came my way between my birthday and Christmas last year. I initially got into the game last summer, but was trying to do my best to take it slow, and learn how to play the game at my own pace. The last thing I wanted was to drown in content, and that feeling lasted at least a couple of months!

The way the game is distributed, however, made me change my mind, and I began to buy more stuff in order to increase my options when it came to deck-building for the game.

Tuesdays are my traditional game days, of course, where for years I would post a blog that highlighted one of my favourite games, and so on. Today, therefore, I think it might be a good idea to go through how the game works, as that will no doubt be a major help during the rest of this week’s blog posts!! When I last did a blog like this, it was after my very first play, and I was still trying to learn the rules. I’ve now played this game about thirty times, all told, so I’ve got a much better understanding of the rules!

So let’s take a look at how the game is played, once again! This may be a long post, now that I understand the game some more, but I think it’s important to go through due to the fact there is so much more Marvel Champions content coming up!

Marvel Champions

The object of the game is for players to work together to defeat the villain. There are usually two villain cards in play, one on top of the other, referred to as villain stages. If you’re playing the game in Standard mode (which I do), then you use stage one and stage two of the villain. For Expert mode, you start on stage two. When both villain stages have been defeated, the players win! However, the villain has a scheme deck, anywhere between one and three cards, which he or she is trying to advance by scheming. If a scheme card accumulates enough threat, it is advanced, and if the final scheme card is advanced, the villain wins. Alternatively, if the villain is able to deal enough damage to each hero that they are defeated, the villain also wins. 

In many ways, then, it’s quite a simple game, as the player objective is to basically deal enough damage over time to defeat the villain. However, the scheme cards need to be dealt with as well, so you can’t be punching every single turn. Furthermore, the villain has an encounter deck that is full of nefarious things, such as minion cards who will also either attack the heroes or scheme alongside the villain, or treachery cards that will wreak havoc with the heroes in all manner of ways. There are also side schemes, which can make the main scheme more difficult to deal with. So each round is definitely a delicate balancing act!

Each round is divided between the Player phase and the Villain phase. In the Player phase, you can switch form between your hero and alter-ego, which can have an impact on what cards you can play and interact with. You can play cards by paying their cost and putting them into play (in the case of ally, support or upgrade cards), or trigger the action on the card if it is an event card. Upgrades, allies and support cards may also have actions that you can trigger. You can also use your hero’s basic powers, such as attack and thwart, or your alter-ego’s recovery. (Heroes also have a basic defense, which comes into play when defending against an attack, but that will come later).

To pay the cost of a card, you need to discard cards to generate resources, or use the abilities of cards in play to generate them. For ally cards, a player can only have three in play, although of course there are cards which allow you to break rules like these. When generating resources from cards, you sometimes need to pay a specific type of resource to gain an effect, or you’ll gain a bonus effect for paying a specific type of resource. There are three types – mental (blue), physical (red), energy (yellow) and also wild (green), which are shown by the icons in the bottom-left corner of the card.

Dealing damage through attacks and attack actions is quite simply a case of either dialling down the villain dial, or placing damage tokens on minions. Thwarting a villain allows you to remove threat from a scheme in play, although some cards (mainly side schemes) have the Crisis icon, which forces you to deal with that scheme first. This, of course, can be devastating as it could allow the main scheme to accrue too much threat! To use your basic hero or alter-ego actions, you must exhaust the card, by turning it on its side. (You can still flip between hero and alter-ego while exhausted, and you can still trigger actions on cards including your hero/alter-ego while exhausted; you just can’t use the basic actions of thwart/attack/defense, or recovery).

Marvel Champions

Allies can also thwart and attack, but in the majority of cases they will take consequential damage for doing so. This means that an ally won’t be around forever to help you, and so you’ll often have to weigh up whether an ally is going to best serve you by thwarting or attacking, or as a meat shield to absorb the villain’s attacks. Again, to use allies, you must exhaust them. Other cards like supports or upgrades may also require you to exhaust them to get their benefits.

Once you’ve done everything you want to do, you can discard any cards left in your hand, then draw up to your hand size at the end of your turn. You then ready all cards in your play area, and take a deep breath before the Villain phase begins!

To begin, the main scheme will accrue threat as per the Acceleration Field, which shows how much threat (usually per player) it gains each round. This acts like a basic clock for the game, because if the players ended in their Hero form, the villain will attack them – potentially meaning a turn could pass without the scheme accruing threat. The main scheme has an Acceleration field, but there are also many cards (mainly side schemes) that have an Acceleration icon, which will add additional threat tokens to the main scheme.

Marvel Champions

The villain then activates against each player, depending on which form that player has ended their turn in. If the player is in Hero form, the villain attacks as stated; if they are in Alter-Ego form, the villain will scheme, placing more threat on the main scheme. To do either of these actions, the villain is dealt a face-down encounter card which is then revealed to check for boost icons on the bottom-right corner. Boost icons buff the villain’s main scheme or attack stat, so two boost icons deal +2 attack or threat. Sometimes a card will have a star icon instead of a boost icon – the star doesn’t buff the villain inherently, but will trigger an effect on the card itself that will then resolve.

If there are any minions in play engaged with a hero, they will also activate, either scheming or attacking as well, although they don’t get boost cards.

Heroes and allies can defend against villain and minion attacks – and if you choose not to, another player can also use their hero or allies to defend you. Allies can defend, and absorb all of the damage from a villain attack regardless of how much health they have, although some attacks may have Overkill, where excess damage rolls over onto the hero (or, indeed, to the villain if this is a hero attack against a minion!)

Marvel Champions

Finally, each player is then dealt an encounter card. Again, some cards (mainly side schemes) have a Hazard icon that forces an additional encounter card to be dealt to each player. These cards are then turned face up, and can either be minions who will engage the player to whom it was dealt; treachery cards which have a one-time effect then get discarded; attachments which go on the villain (and usually make things so much worse), and side schemes, which will come into play with threat on them, and generally make the heroes’ job that much more difficult. New minions dealt this way do not attack or scheme the turn in which they arrived, however.

There are also the player Obligation cards, which are shuffled into the encounter deck at the start of the game, and which can cause problems for the heroes by interrupting any plans being laid. You may also find that your Nemesis minion and side scheme gets shuffled into the encounter deck, causing further chaos for the heroes! That said, I think in all of my games up to now, I’ve only had to do this once, so it isn’t a very common occurrence.

At any rate, that is the end of the round, and the players then get to lick their wounds and fight back!

There’s a lot of text in this post, I know, but the game actually plays out really quickly once you get going with it. I think it’s interesting how straightforward it can be at times, but I suppose this speaks to how the designers have made a game that can appeal to the mass Marvel crowd while also having a depth that will bring gamers into the fold as well. While I enjoy the Marvel theme, and will quite happily sit through any of the movies and TV shows that are being put out there, I think it’s interesting that I enjoy this game more for its actual gameplay than for its theme. There are quite a few games that I will play because I like the theme more than anything else, but this one intrigues me because I’ve come to it as a game first and foremost, and not because I’m some kind of huge Marvel fan. That, however, has been where I’ve gone a bit wrong, as I had initially thought I would only pick and choose the heroes and expansions that I liked the sound of, from having watched the movies or whatever. But given that I like the actual game so much, I find that I want more of these packs because I want to build new and different decks, etc! They’ve definitely got me with this one!

It is a fairly quick game to get through, like I said, although some villains can stall you a bit as you try to deal with everything that’s going on. Klaw from the core set is a good example of this, where he has a number of side schemes in play which can dictate the flow of what you’re doing, as well as some pretty tough minions in his deck. To cap it all off, the second stage gives him a massive boost in hit points which means the game just goes on for a very long time as you try to make it through each round. There are other villains that have so much going on that it does feel like a proper gaming session, and not just a quick play-through that can last half an hour, or whatever. Unless of course, you just die really quickly!

The Learn to Play booklet is excellent, and really takes you through the game step-by-step. There is also a Rules Reference booklet that goes over the more complex stuff, but generally speaking you can play this game without your head stuck in these booklets after just a couple of games – I’m not being disparaging here, I think it’s amazing how the game has been so well-designed! Often, you’ll find a game can be so dense to work out what you’re trying to do, it can take hours to work through even a tutorial scenario, or whatever. Not so, here! 

A well-designed game is great, but the variety that has come out of having such a rich and varied universe to work within is definitely another plus point for this game. I think the way the game is structured around villain-scenarios is great, of course, and the addition of modular encounter sets to subtly change these villains is fantastic, but heroes and their decks is another excellent point. I’ll get more into this later in the week, but each hero comes with a small deck of around 15 cards that are their Hero cards. They then bulk out their deck to between 40 and 50 cards from one of the four Aspects, Justice, Leadership, Aggression and Protection. Any hero can be built in any Aspect, so you can play your favourites in a number of different ways. The Hero cards will dictate, to some extent, what you want to include in the wider deck, but it’s amazing how much replay variety you can get out of the game in this way.

All in all, it’s just so much fun to play, I can’t believe it took me so long before I actually bought and played it!

Marvel Champions LCG

This week is Marvel Champions week! I have declared it so!

I’ve been enjoying Marvel Champions for about six months now, and in that time it has become a real favourite for me. True, I have waxed and waned a bit, as I’ve tried to get into the game slowly, without overwhelming myself with the amount of content that is out there for the game. Between Christmas and my birthday, though, I’ve had a significant injection of content that has left me with a lot of stuff to discover, and so that’s really the aim of this week on the blog – my attempt to really get to grips with the game and all the new stuff that I now have!

This game was chosen as one of my 10×10 games for the year, but in actual fact I think I’m going to smash this goal before the end of January as a result of this endeavour! I think that’s one of the big attractions of the game for me, though, that it can be played as a pretty standalone experience. There are hundreds of heroes in the Marvel pantheon, with as many villains for them to go up against, and I love the fact you can get all manner of mash-ups going from this game.

I have previously talked on the blog about how each big box expansion for this game is sold as a “campaign expansion”, but said campaign is actually pretty weak, especially in comparison with the other co-op LCG out there, Arkham Horror. However, I actually now think that this is a good thing, because it doesn’t lock you in to playing in a specific way. Yes, there’s a vague storyline going through each box, and even the core set, and it kinda makes sense to enjoy that story by playing through each villain in the recommended order. But there’s really nothing stopping you from just playing a single game against Hela, without first going through Thanos and his minions. Or you can just play against Ultron, or just against The Collector. Or whatever.

In modern games, it seems to be a bit of an expectation that there will be some form of campaign play, or some way of linking together different games to form an overarching narrative. It’s not always a requirement, though, and I’m a big fan of the fact you can pick this game up and have a great game by playing a one-off fight against, say, Red Skull.

Indeed, the campaign system is weak enough that it almost encourages you to avoid it. I’ve only really tried the Thanos campaign, but was so decidedly unimpressed that I gave up after Thanos himself, the halfway point, as it didn’t really seem worthwhile. Each box has a not insignificant amount of cards for campaign play, but I’m thinking they could just be used for regular games, if at all. There is some theme involved with them, but it’s not Arkham Horror levels of immersion.

I feel as though I’m ranting here, but that’s really not the case! Suffice it to say, the campaign system in Marvel Champions holds very little interest for me, but this is not a bad thing because I love the fact this is a game you can just pick up and play.

It’s Marvel Champions week, so let’s look forward to a week of rambling about what has very quickly become one of my most-played games!!

Angmar Awakened – out of the dungeon, into the Ettenmoors

Hey everybody,
After more than two months, I’m once again back with the Angmar Awakened cycle! Back in November, I started this with The Wastes of Eriador, having played through The Lost Realm deluxe box back at the end of 2020! It’s definitely taking me a while to get through this, but I’m pressing on! I played the second pack, Escape from Mount Gram, at the start of December, so I’m currently doing well at one pack per month!

Escape from Mount Gram

At the end of the last adventure, the heroes were taken captive by the goblins, and Escape from Mount Gram sees us running around in the dungeons, trying to get our stuff and flee. There is a fairly annoying mechanic that starts the pack by shuffling all of the stuff, including allies and two heroes per player, into a sort of side-deck, meaning that we start the game with just one hero and a deck of event cards. Encounter cards often have the Capture mechanic, which draws cards from this set-aside deck under them and, when those cards leave play, such as by defeating enemies or exploring locations, we get to draw those cards as normal. Some effects will actually allow us to put cards into play for free, which is nice!

Escape from Mount Gram

Thematically, it works wonderfully, as it simulates the helpless/abandoned feeling of being lost in the dungeons and trying to regroup really well. However, it’s just that tiny bit soul-crushing as we start from so far behind, it’s like an uphill struggle right from the off. In addition, of course, players can’t team up until the second quest stage, so you really are on your own. It’s a little bit like Foundations of Stone from the Dwarrowdelf cycle in that respect.

Escape from Mount Gram

To win, you have to flee via the Southern Gate, which is quite the task because you can’t travel to that location until the quest has got the max number of progress tokens on it, so it’s very prescriptive in that respect. But it was quite enjoyable – just a bit hectic, and not one that I think I would rush to play again!

Across the Ettenmoors

Once we’ve escaped the dungeons, we then race Across the Ettenmoors, a wild place where Giants and Trolls abound. This one was a very interesting quest, as it is basically side quest heaven. Due to the fact that I was playing a team that includes Thurindir, and both my decks have quite a few side quests in as well, towards the end of the game I was questing for something like 20+ easily, Thurindir himself contributing well over half of that due to the 10 or so side quests in the victory display!

Across the Ettenmoors

There are a lot of enemies in this one, plus a lot of quite horrible treacheries, though I was surprised that it didn’t feel quite so bad as you’d think. Yes, there are massive Giant enemies to contend with, but as luck would have it, I was able to either discard them as shadow cards, or else deal with them on my own terms by keeping my threat low enough throughout!

I think Across the Ettenmoors is ranked as the easiest quest of the cycle, in the official literature at least. But like I say, it could be pretty horrific if you’re stuck with a bunch of giants and trolls looming over you. During my game, I was stuck with drawing a lot of player cards that interacted with locations, yet barely any locations were coming up. I always find these things interesting, because people will tell you that x quest is easy, or y quest is difficult, but without the right cards in your hand, x quest could be impossible! 

On that note, I believe I have an extremely difficult one coming up over the horizon. The Battle of Carn Dûm gets a lot of bad press for being one of the hardest quests in the game, but I still have another quest to get through before I’m there, so I can try to build myself up for that one. 

In the meantime, I continue to be quite impressed by how my decks are performing. The combination this time around has led to some very powerful turns where fairly significant enemies are crushed in one blow, and locations never seem to linger for longer than a turn or two. It’ll be interesting to see how I fare when the time comes – hopefully it won’t be too long before I will be able to draw this particular cycle to a close!!

Gaming 10×10

Goal of the Challenge:
As a counterpoint to the Cult of the New, this challenge encourages people to play each game several times to explore and experience them in depth. There is no rush to find the optimum strategy on your first play, or read all of the cards beforehand. Instead, each play reveals something more and something different, you get to try various strategies, and everyone’s strategies evolve with their understanding and learning of the game. If you are tired of constantly learning new rules when running after the latest hotness, never really learning various strategies to any game, and needing to relearn the rules of old games because it’s been too long since they were played, this is the challenge for you.

It sounds so simple, doesn’t it? Just play ten games, ten times each, over the course of the year. Well, I’ve tried it a couple of times, in 2015 and 2016, and both times I failed! However, this time I want to try to be more disciplined about the whole thing. I’ve talked about it a couple of times in recent weeks here on the blog, but I want to try and do something to really get the most out of my game collection. I have literally thousands of pounds of board games, so I do want to make more use of it!!

To that end, then, I am throwing down my hat early on in the year, to plan which games I want to play over the next twelve months, and then at each end-of-month retrospective I can track how I’m doing, much as I’m planning to do for my hobby goals that I talked about the other day, as well. I feel I need to emphasise though, it’s not about scripting my entertainment for the year, it’s just a way to keep me on track!!

Without any further ado, then…

I think everything here should be very straightforward to achieve, as it’s all stuff that either I know that I can play solo, or that I know my wife won’t roll her eyes at me if I suggest we play! Though hope springs eternal that she will try the Star Wars LCG again someday…

The three LCGs up there are all games that I played at least ten times in 2022, so I have no doubt that I’ll be able to accomplish that part of the deal fairly easily. I have four big games that can sometimes take some build-up, as I know they’re a bit of a time-sink, but they’re all very enjoyable so I’m hoping that won’t be too much trouble, either. Hogwarts Battle and Elder Sign are both games that Jemma quite likes (the Harry Potter game is probably her favourite of the lot), so I think it’ll be easy enough to get these played, too.

That does mean, though, there is one missing. It’s 10 games, after all! Well, the Challenge that I quoted from at the start has two levels, Normal and Hardcore, but both allow for some flexibility. In Normal mode, you can add in and swap out games if you’re finding it difficult, whereas in Hardcore you pre-select 11 games and have to play at least ten of them. I’m opting for a bit of a middle ground, where I have a couple of games in mind that could form the tenth slot, but it’s more difficult because I need people to play them with!

I’d like to play more Carcassonne, as it was one of my favourite games back in the day, but I’m not sure I’m in a majority on that one. I have been thinking about stuff like Hellboy and Ghostbusters, both huge kickstarter games that I’ve barely scratched the surface with, so it kinda makes sense to include those as well. Finally, there’s stuff like 40k, which could probably see a lot of time if I were to apply myself, or Necromunda, which still needs some evangelism to get people round here to play with me. I suppose I could always just play that solo scenario with the Ambot ten times, though!

So far, I have actually managed to play two games this month, Runebound, and A Touch of Evil. So I’m well on the way, already!! I’m feeling quite hopeful that I will be able to get through the challenge this year, as I have chosen some games that have a lot of new content for me to try, plus games that I haven’t really played in years, so it should be good to get back to them. I’m not really in the business of buying many new games these days – Marvel Champions last year was my first new game for years – so I can’t really see me getting sucked into the cult of the new, but it’ll be good to have something to focus my mind, and hopefully I’ll be able to smash through the list in no time at all! It is only one play of each game per month, after all…

Spider-Man: Far From Home

Hey everybody,
It was my birthday last weekend, and I sat down to watch the middle Spider-Man film, Far From Home, which I’d picked up a while ago. I’m not a huge Spider-Man fan, it has to be said, but I’m sure it was about twelve months ago that we watched the last one, and we’ve recently been watching a bunch of Marvel stuff, so I was somewhat in the mood for it.

The film picks up after Endgame, and does deal with some more of the fallout from The Snap in interesting ways – like, part of Peter’s class disappeared while the other part aged five years, and so on. It’s interesting to see how the writers give us these little bits and pieces, though the tone is much lighter than, say, Falcon & Winter Soldier, where there are more serious issues raised with the repatriation council, etc. At the end of term, Peter and his class are going to Europe so arrive in Venice, where coincidentally there is a huge elemental incursion by some kind of water-being. A masked, caped superhero flies in to dissipate the elemental, and is revealed to be working with Nick Fury and what is left of SHIELD. He later tells Peter that his name is Quentin Beck, and he has been chasing down these elementals across the world. After the Italian press dub him “l’uomo del misterio”, he adopts the name Mysterio and explains that there are elemental creatures that have rampaged through his universe, so he has come to Earth-616 to pursue them.

The next elemental attack is predicted for Prague, but Peter’s class is initially headed for Paris. Fury manages to reroute them to the Czech Republic, so that Peter can help Mysterio to deal with the attack. Along the way, Peter is given a pair of glasses bequeathed to him by Tony Stark, with the EDITH AI system in them. Peter doesn’t feel worthy of the gift, however, so gives them to Mysterio, whereupon we learn that he is none other than a fraud, a disaffected Stark Industries employee who is working with other former colleagues to gain some recognition by using illusion tech to make himself appear to be a superhero.

When MJ inadvertently recovers part of the illusion projector in Prague, Peter begins to see what has happened. Mysterio’s next target is London, where Peter’s class is due to end their trip, and a confrontation happens over Tower Bridge that sees Peter eventually able to overpower Mysterio. However, Mysterio publishes a doctored video that makes it look like Spider-Man is responsible for the attack, and reveals to the world that the superhero is none other than Peter Parker.

It’s a good film, nothing too strenuous to watch, although it did amuse me thinking how the elemental attacks are meant to be video projections, and yet the illusion in Venice is able to physically destroy buildings along the way. I had read that Jake Gyllenhaal wanted to portray Mysterio as sincere as possible to begin with, which clearly worked because I was almost distraught when he turned out to be the baddie!

The movie plays around a lot with fake news and the like, with Mysterio’s illusions and his denouncement of Peter at the end. In the end-credits scene we also learn that Nick Fury has been on vacation in space, and it was a pair of Skrulls masquerading as Fury and Maria Hill. What’s going on there? I have no idea, though apparently it’s something that we’re still waiting to resolve. It’s becoming a bit convoluted at this point, all this stuff, I have to say! I liked the first raft of movies, where clearly Fury was recruiting to assemble the Avengers, but now it seems to be a lot more veiled. I like a bit of mystery, don’t get me wrong, but when you think this film came out in 2019, and it’s currently expected to pay off in Secret Wars next year, that’s quite a wait. 

At any rate, I thought the movie was fine, and a good backdrop to painting miniatures!

As you may well know, though, I’ve become slightly obsessed with Marvel Champions LCG this year, and after a couple of weeks off in the autumn, I’ve been back into playing and collecting. I’d picked up the Sinister Motives campaign expansion for myself as well, and had thought I would keep it for Christmas but after watching the movie I decided to allow myself an early Christmas present and played the Mysterio scenario earlier this week.

It was actually really good, as well. I’ve read some fairly neutral reviews of this one in particular, but I enjoyed how it plays around with the whole illusion thing, adding in encounter cards to the player deck, which then get dealt to you as additional encounter cards. I was trying out Spectrum and Doctor Strange, another recent acquisition, and while they were doing some good work between them it was by no means a pushover scenario.

I thought the mechanic of adding cards into the player deck is interesting, and oddly enough have just finished up the Dream-Eaters campaign for Arkham Horror that uses a similar idea as well. Whereas previous games like Marvel Legendary have added in cards like this, which would annoyingly need to be re-sleeved to play, here it doesn’t matter – indeed, the campaign guide does state that you should plan for drawing these encounter cards, which can be especially important when you could potentially end up with 3-4 encounter cards in front of you!

It was a good game, and I was just about able to scrape a win, with the death blow dealt while both heroes were at 2 health remaining. It’s definitely good to invigorate the villains pool with more options, I have to say – I’m looking forward to getting a few more when the jolly fella comes down the chimney on Sunday and brings another box!

The Dream-Eaters: final stage

Well folks, I made it! After deciding it would be a good idea to try to finish up the campaign before Christmas, I was able to finish both final stages last night, and bring the campaign to a close almost as quickly as when I was playing stuff like Dunwich and Carcosa a couple of years ago. Lately, it seems, I have been playing Arkham Horror LCG campaigns much more spaced-out, so it was good to get that level of focus on this and see it through, so to speak! I realise, of course, that this makes it sound like a chore that I had to get through, but that isn’t really the case at all.

While these sorts of blogs normally come with a spoiler warning, beware that this one in particular does talk about some of the twists and turns!!

The Dream-Eaters (4)

Where the Gods Dwell is the finale to the dream quest, and saw Minh and Agnes arrive at the Plateau of Leng. Our first task was to investigate the Monastery of Leng, and see if we could defeat The High Priest Not To Be Described, before moving on to the Onyx Castle where all will be revealed! This scenario once again had that element of staging the locations, so we are first out on the Plateau but then move into the Castle, whereupon the map changes.

The Dream-Eaters (4)

Throughout the campaign, we have had some Hidden cards involved, usually treachery cards that go into our hand and take up valuable space, preventing us from acting entirely freely unless we are able to discard these cards. Where the Gods Dwell takes this much further, and we have one per investigator plus one copies of Nyarlathotep shuffled into the encounter deck, each card unique, and each with the Hidden keyword. We cannot speak his name, else we are driven insane, but also we cannot take any action against him unless we have gained another Hidden card, one of four copies of Whispering Chaos. These cards allow us to trigger the action on one of the location cards in place, which is a skill test of some sort that, if passed, will allow us to add the copy of Nyarlathotep from our hand to the victory display. It is quite convoluted, which I suppose is entirely on theme (I especially liked one such action where you had to take an evade test, using your investigate attribute, further adding to the chaos of the ancient one!) With only having three copies of the ancient one in the deck, it became a bit complicated to ensure the investigator with Nyarlathotep also gets the Whispering Chaos card to allow them to defeat him.

The Dream-Eaters (4)

By doing so, I was able to claim victory – there is a fifth Act card where all the copies of Nyarlathotep merge into one mega-boss that needs to be banished forever, but fortunately I had made earlier story choices that meant I could finish the game sooner. My investigators suffered two mental trauma, and then had a choice to make – wake up, or go after the other investigators in the second campaign. I decided on the latter, which brings us to the final pack in the waking world.

The Dream-Eaters (4)

Weaver of the Cosmos is, unsurprisingly, a showdown with Atlach-Nacha. The spiders in the hospital, the ichor seeping through into the waking world, it’s all down to this ancient one, and he is determined to finish weaving his great web between the waking world and the Dreamlands, which would result in utter chaos. We’re basically trying to cross his huge web, whereupon Randolph Carter turns on us and traps us in the spider’s lair. Didn’t see that one coming! We then have a showdown with the ancient one, which is a little bit goofy as you “assemble” the ancient one out of a central double-sided enemy card and four “leg” enemies.

Clark Ashton Smith’s The Seven Geases, which introduces Atlach-Nacha to the mythos, is a bit of a spoof/satire, and a part of me wondered if the scenario is trying to reflect that, as I certainly found it a bit silly at times. See, we have the four “leg” enemies arranged around the “body” card, then there are eight Web location cards arranged in a circle around this fabulous construct. At the start of the mythos phase, you draw a chaos token and, if it is a negative modifier, Atlach-Nacha rotates a number of locations clockwise, meaning it looks faintly ridiculous as time goes on. Furthermore, you can spend a clue to deal 3 damage to a leg enemy, which has a health of 3 hit points per investigator. So a total of eight clues are required to defeat the legs, but with locations only having 2 shroud, for the most part, this was very straightforward. The only difficulty is trying to keep up with the rotating legs, but that’s hardly insurmountable.

The Dream-Eaters (4)

Once they’ve all gone, Atlach-Nacha himself then becomes the final boss, but with only 4 hit points per investigator, and a fight value of 4, I didn’t find this too troublesome either. I suppose Jenny being fairly tooled-up helped, but even Carolyn being weapons-averse was able to soften it up. 

With Atlach-Nacha gone, the investigators are trapped in this nightmare realm forever, but there is the Epilogue. I was quite surprised at how slick this finale worked, if I’m honest, as there were so many branching paths that could have happened during the course of both campaigns, it was quite impressive that the designers were able to dovetail things quite well. In the end, both groups of investigators were united in the Dreamlands, and I won – but everybody is trapped there, and I did feel a bit let-down that there isn’t closure for my dreaming investigators, who are presumably now in a permanent coma situation in the hospital? This hasn’t been addressed, leading to a bit of an uneasy feeling – but I guess that’s probably the point?

The Dream-Eaters (4)

Overall, I did enjoy this campaign. I think it started well, but as time went on, it did seem to get a bit ploddy, somehow. Like, I enjoyed the Arkham locations in the waking world, and the Dreamlands did feel like a magical place etc, but as we got towards the end it felt like I just had to get through. I noticed this especially in stage three, where I was almost rushing it and ignoring a lot of the stuff that was going on around me as I was aiming for the finish line. It became a lot more mechanical, rather than providing the escapism I usually enjoy from the game. 

There weren’t too many “gotcha” moments as we went through, though, and I actually found myself chuckling quietly as earlier campaign decisions came to fruition in unexpected ways. For instance, the evidence of Kadath tally that I had become a little wary of actually helped me, as it meant I was able to get into the Onyx Castle straightaway. I was a bit surprised that Randolph Carter turned on both groups of investigators, turning out to be an aspect of Nyarlathotep in each campaign, but it wasn’t a big turn-off for me. 

Playing two interwoven mini-campaigns was an interesting experience, for sure, and despite the mixed reviews it seems to have online, I am glad to have done it this way. The fact that we have an interlude after each stage means that they are connected, and it is quite good to see how the stories weave in and out of each other, though it wasn’t immediately apparent to me how much the choices in one impact on the other. Occasionally, there are moments where we’re told a certain choice will make things more difficult for the other side, but I don’t think making those choices was noticeable (unless I just expect the game to be this difficult!)

I think I might well try this again, playing just one side to see how it all works. Having four investigators on the go did prove to be a bit of a faff in the end. I think I was perhaps underwhelmed with how each was really performing, certainly the waking investigators didn’t really seem to have a lot to do. While I admit that’s down to my investigator picks for each side, I think I did feel a bit disappointed with Carolyn in particular, and this seemed to bleed into the rest of them so that, by the mid-point of the campaign, I gave up spending the experience on upgrading cards, and so probably have about 15 experience for each side of the campaign that was unspent by the end. Whether this is related to the point many folks online mention around not having enough time with the investigators, I don’t know, but I certainly didn’t feel as enthused about upgrading my decks as I normally am!

The way I enjoyed the Arkham scenarios at the beginning did get me thinking, though, just how much I miss the town within this game. It strikes me that the links back to New England are becoming increasingly tenuous as new campaigns come out, with Edge of the Earth not having any gameplay in the setting at all. I miss it, and I think the high watermark for this is probably The Circle Undone, which primarily feels like an Arkham setting. I have no idea what to expect after The Scarlet Keys takes us across the whole globe, but I do find myself wondering if we could have something that allows us to play Arkham Horror actually in Arkham.

At any rate, with the completion of this campaign, I have now played all of the Arkham Horror campaigns that I own! I suppose there is a bit of a question mark over Innsmouth, as I kinda mis-played that one and so “lost” when both my investigators went insane, so I will likely play that again soon. I still haven’t picked up The Scarlet Keys, mostly because I’ve been investing heavily in Marvel Champions, but I think I’ll get that in the new year when I’ve made it through Innsmouth and have nothing else new to play. Early reviews seem to indicate it’s a very good addition, so that’s encouraging at least!

The Dream-Eaters: stage three

In a bid to try to get the Dream-Eaters campaign finished before Christmas, today I breezed through both scenarios in stage three, which is probably not the best way to go but I was also on childcare duty, so didn’t have a great deal of spare time. I would have been back to this game sooner, but after getting a slew of Marvel Champions things for my birthday at the weekend, I have been once more obsessing with that game. I need more focus!!

The Dream-Eaters III

The Dark Side of the Moon is a bit like a dungeon-crawl scenario, where we start with a small board and by paying clues at a certain location, we can see just a few more locations further ahead. We are up on the moon, so of course we’re battling moon-beasts while exploring the caverns and suchlike up there. I’ve said it before, but it’s remarkable how the designers have been able to take Lovecraft’s Dream-Quest novella and turn it into this campaign. I’ve been really impressed so far with the Dream side of things, for sure.

The Dream-Eaters III

I enjoyed seeing more of the board on a stage-by-state basis, although there is a part of me that is fondly nostalgic for the more basic scenarios from earlier campaigns, where the map is just laid in front of you, and you get to explore it without trying to work out where the next pieces of the puzzle have to go. I can’t quite help but feel like this is a bit gimmicky now, though, and rather than just have everything out from the start, they’re trying to come up with new ways of staggering the laying-out of locations.

The Dream-Eaters III

At any rate, once we explore the caverns and stuff, we make it to The White Ship and sail away, another one of Lovecraft’s dream stories ticked off as being incorporated into the storyline. There is a mechanic in this one which uses doom tokens to represent the ‘alert’ level, which seems to be linked with drawing attention to ourselves. I was a bit unsure on this, as surely if we the investigators are on high-alert, we’re being super stealthy? But no, bad things can happen the more alert we are, it seems!

I did treat this one very much like a rush job, it has to be said, and evaded monsters rather than trying to fight them.

The Dream-Eaters III

In the waking world, we are now at the Point of No Return. We arrived in the Underworld of the Dreamlands last time, but rather than immediately set off after our friends, Randolph Carter thinks we have the opportunity here to discover what is making the barrier between the worlds weaken, so we’re off on a bit of a side-quest, it feels. Now, there’s nothing inherently wrong with this scenario, but it did very much feel like a rehash of Search for Kadath earlier in the campaign, as each location has a story side, and it’s only by exploring these locations that we can advance the Act.

The Dream-Eaters III

Rather than there being four distinct other worlds to choose from, there are just two further stages – Vale of Pnath locations, and then the Sea of Pitch. Each area has four locations, and one of them will allow you to advance the act. It’s a bit samey, but I decided I wanted to think of it in terms of the internal rhyme or parallel between the dreaming and the waking worlds. Or something.

The Dream-Eaters III

Something that I liked about the setup for this scenario was how different encounter sets would get shuffled into the deck as things progress. The pack actually features two additional small encounter sets, which help to stagger the reveals. One of them features the Dhole, a classic mythos monster that we finally get in the card game! I think we’ve had this before, where a mythos pack would come with more than just a single encounter set, but it remains to be seen if they’re used in any of the final scenarios.

The Dream-Eaters III

As you can see above, the sun started to shine as my victory became apparent, although I’m not entirely sure if I can really say that I’m winning – in the next Interlude, the black cat has brought my investigators news of Nyarlathotep, which cannot be cause for celebration! I’m a bit bemused, though, because I had thought this cycle was going to be all about Atlach-Nacha, and indeed, we have encounter sets for his agents, plus there are spiders and webs everywhere, so I’m not really sure what’s going on! But I’ve got a hefty chunk of experience points to spend on the final deck upgrades, so hopefully I can get myself organised and find the time for the last two scenarios before the weekend.

Stay tuned!!