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!!

It’s the GAMA Trade Show 2017!

Hey everybody!
Well, it’s been an exciting week for games, as the GAMA Trade Show in Vegas showed off some really cool, really interesting things that have got me wanting to play more games! I’ve been trying to digest these things all week, so let’s take a look at some highlights!

First of all, it’s the return of Necromunda – it’s Shadow War: Armageddon! The internet seems to have been baying for the return of Necromunda ever since Games Workshop announced they would be producing specialist games back in the day, and while this clearly isn’t it, it’s probably the next best thing, I would think? I mean, Blood Bowl came back as Blood Bowl, and while Warhammer Quest did get the Age of Sigmar thing for Silver Tower, it still has the name. To produce a squad-based game like this and call it anything other than Necromunda just says that the original game isn’t going to be coming back any time soon. Though in the anniversary year of 40k, who knows if they’ll produce some kind of memorial edition?

At any rate, I think this is really cool, and I’m excited to get myself a copy! The fact that you can use other squads is obviously tailored for selling more miniatures, but I like the fact that you can customise your game experience right from the off, so that’s a big plus in my book!

GW were also showing off some of the new Kharadron Overlords at the show, which is a nice touch and they do look pretty great!

The biggest thing to come from the show is said to have been this new A Song of Ice and Fire tabletop miniatures game from Cool Mini Or Not. I enjoyed Battles of Westeros back in the day, and the Game of Thrones LCG is one of my favourites, but I don’t really think I’m going to take the plunge. I’ve noticed, in fact, that I’m leaning away from Westeros as time has gone on, mainly I think I’m just losing interest in the whole thing. I’ve talked about the books on this blog before, of course, and while the first three were really great, tightly-constructed yet deeply complex plots, the story seems to have gotten unwieldy for the sake of it. I’ve always preferred the books to the show anyway, but it seems that these things have become caricatures of themselves, as they seek to out-do expectations by being over the top and whatnot. A game on the subject, therefore, holds little appeal…

But what else has been going on in Vegas?

There are some interesting bits here at the Flying Frog booth, notably the looks at the Mission Packs for Shadows of Brimstone! I’m still a little bummed that I haven’t had anything beyond the base games delivered yet, but seeing those packs has gotten me once more interested in the game, and excited to see all of the rest of the content coming out for it all!

There are only two other games that have sparked my attention in this montage here (from the excellent Rodney Smith of Watch It Played – if you haven’t already, please go check out his youtube channel, it’s amazing) are Rise of Tribes and Meduris: Call of the Gods.

Meduris reminds me a lot like Stone Age, one of the resource-management games that feel like Settlers of Catan without being as rage-inducing. Rise of Tribes looks to have a similar feel, though I like the fact that it has a dice mechanic that determines your actions for the round, that sounds really nice and strategic… Meduris is out in the world now of course, while Rise of Tribes is going onto kickstarter in June, apparently, which is giving me some pause… I’m not the biggest fan of these things, after all, so we’ll have to see how this turns out!

Runewars Miniatures Game

Fantasy Flight also had a heavy showing of the Runewars miniatures game, which they seem to be pushing really quite heavily at the moment. While they still have some pretty big licences, such as Star Wars and Lovecraft, it strikes me that they’re really pushing this game out there to fill the gap left from parting with Games Workshop last month. The game is expected in April, but I have to say, the more I’m seeing of it, the less I’m thinking it’s going to be something I want. There are certainly some interesting things going on in this game, for sure, but I don’t think it will be worth making such a huge investment up front for something that only looks mildly interesting. Might have to wait for my local store to run a demo…

So yeah, that’s GAMA 2017, folks!

Against the Onslaught

Hey folks,
Welcome to another game day! Something exciting for you all today, I’m taking a look at a game that I only had delivered last week, but has really captured my imagination. It’s time to go up against the alien onslaught, in Xenoshyft: Onslaught!

Xenoshyft: Onslaught

This is a kickstarter game from Cool Mini Or Not that has recently come out in retail, the campaign having ended in June last year. I missed the kickstarter, I came across it following the Blood Rage campaign, when I thought I might check out CMON’s website to see what else they’d done. A co-operative base-defense card game sounded interesting, and the rest is history.

Something that initially drew me to the game, besides the co-op thing, is the look it has. There’s almost a Warhammer 40k feel to it, with the human players (Imperial Guard?) going up against big bugs (Tyranids?) in the hope of just outlasting them. When I cracked open the game and was looking through the cards, this came across further in the top-level soldiers you can purchase – a collection of battle suits (Tau?) I actually made a first-impressions video back when I had the game delivered, check that out here:

The game is really a lot of fun, anyway. It belongs to what I’ve previously referred to as the second-generation of deck-building games, distinct from the more ‘pure deckbuilding’ of Dominion, and more akin to stuff like Marvel Legendary or Thunderstone. Actually, Thunderstone is a great comparison, because in terms of mechanics it has a very similar feel to that game.

Xenoshyft: Onslaught

You play a division of NorTec Marines, and at the start you receive a location card that you are tasked with defending. The game is set up with soldier character cards on the left, and nine items on the right – these items are chosen at random, though at least one will be dictated by the location card. They’re in stacks of five, but when a stack runs out, rather than triggering an end-game, you just replace it. You start with chump characters as well as resources – here, ‘xenostathem’, a rare mineral that you’re mining. This mineral attracts the alien fauna of the world, and the more you have, the more rabid that fauna gets.

The object of the game is basically to survive over nine rounds, which are broken into three waves. During wave one, you face comparatively easy monsters, and only have access to some troops; during wave two, you have tougher monsters, but you can now purchase better troops, and the same in wave three. You can also trade in your 1-resource xenostathem for 3-resource in wave two, and 6-resource in wave three, so that it becomes easier to get more resources in one go.

At the beginning of the turn, you draw a hand of six cards, and also one free resource from the bank. You can then buy whatever you like, and it goes into your hand immediately. This is a real game-changer for the deck-building genre, and veterans will realise just how powerful a mechanic it is. But it also makes complete sense, right? You buy stuff, so you get that stuff right now, rather than investing in it for a long-term yield – I’m buying guns and stuff, after all, not stocks and shares! You then place any soldiers you have in a lane, equipping stuff to them as you see fit.

Xenoshyft: Onslaught

The aliens then come out to play, and are dealt face-down into their lane. Combat begins by turning over the right-most alien, and damage is dealt simultaneously:

Xenoshyft: Onslaught

In the picture above, the drone deals two damage (bottom-left, the red bullets), and has two hit-points (the green plus), while the ranger deals four damage because of the card he is equipped with. So the ranger deals more than enough to kill the drone, and the special text on the weapon card allows him to deal the excess damage to another enemy in the lane. This is really useful, as you can potentially kill off enemies before they get to you. However, some enemies have a ‘reveal’ effect that triggers when they’re flipped over, and when you deal damage in this way, that effect would still trigger.

Soldier unit cards stay in place until they are destroyed, when they’re discarded and the soldier to their right moves up to face the onslaught. Aliens move in a similar manner, with the two sides coming together until one is wiped out. If the soldiers outlast the four aliens, they stay in place for the next turn; if the aliens defeat all four soldiers, however, they then deal their damage to the base, which has 15 hit points per player. If the base is reduced to 0hp, then it’s game over, man!

Xenoshyft: Onslaught

Some other things include the ability to level-up your chump cards by ‘burning’ them – which means putting them back into their starting piles. This effect usually reduces the cost of another unit card, which can be very useful! Your location card, in addition to giving you extra cards to your starting hand, also has ongoing abilities it grants, such as lowering the cost to purchase cards, or giving you free cards.

To sum up, this is a great game. I’ve played it a few times now, and have lost every time. But it’s never a bitter loss – I mean, it always feels like I need to try again and I might just actually win if I do. The lane mechanic does feel a little like Thunderstone, but I think that’s more a superficial thing, and the game as a whole definitely feels like its own thing. The buy-it-and-get-it-now mechanic really stands out for me, though, and the theme of fighting off these giant bugs is just fantastic!

This is a kickstarter game, so naturally there are exclusives that you won’t get at retail. Looking at the campaign’s page, these range from Commander cards for your marines, which seem a bit overpowered, three packs of ‘experimental items’ and three of reinforcements, which serve to add some options, and a batch of more aliens. I honestly don’t feel like I’ve missed out on too much from this, I have to say – while some of these things look interesting, like that Lone Wolf ‘heroic militia’ card, I’m not going to lose sleep on the thought that I have ‘an incomplete game’, as I know a lot of completionists often feel about such things. One of the things I love about this game is just how tough it is, how I feel like I’m really slogging it through hell on this planet, and the addition of powerful unit cards like these strikes me as skewing the balance of the game.

The page also shows two mini-expansions, featuring a new location and some new items. Those look interesting – the Grafting Laboratory, in particular! Not ks exclusives, I hope they’ll be released soon for the enjoyment of all!

Buy it from amazon:
Xenoshyft: Onslaught