Conquest of Nerath

Hey everybody!
It’s game day here at spalanz.com, and in celebration of my blog’s third birthday this Friday, I’m making this Fantasy Week! What better way, therefore, to celebrate, than with a game set in one of the most archetypal fantasy universes ever conceived: Dungeons and Dragons! Okay, so I’m not going to be looking at the RPG itself, having never played it, but instead, I’m taking a look at one of the stand-out board games from the product line: Conquest of Nerath!

War has come to the Dungeons & Dragons world! In the north, the undead legions of the Dark Empire of Karkoth march against the fragile League of Nerath, determined to sweep away the human kingdoms forever. To the south, the infernal Iron Circle launches its own goblin hordes in a campaign of conquest against the elves and corsairs of Vailin. From the snowy expanse of the Winterbole Forest to the sun-warmed coasts of ancient Vailin, four great powers struggle for survival.

Conquest of Nerath

I’ve only actually played with this game once, back in 2013, and had an absolute blast! It’s basically the sort of area-control game that is a lot like Risk for those familiar with more mainstream boardgames, where you control a faction from the D&D world and attempt to take over the board as much as possible. The board itself is beautifully illustrated, and each of the four factions comes with a whole host of miniatures that represent the hordes they can bring to bear, from foot soldiers and siege engines to warships and storm elementals!

Rather than me go through the rules of the game here, let me present Rodney Thompson, one of the D&D lead designers from back in the day, and who has presented a load of video tutorials on D&D games:

The game is a lot of fun. It looks deceptively complex, as there are a lot of pieces on the board, from all of those miniatures to all of the tokens and cards involved, but the rules are actually really streamlined, allowing you to focus more on the narrative and fun, than on game mechanics and such. There isn’t a great deal of magic involved, aside from the wizards’ First Strike rule and, I suppose, the way some Event cards work, which also helps to keep the game straightforward. Each faction has the same sorts of units, and yet feels quite different in the way they play, which also adds to the ease of gameplay.

Conquest of Nerath

Of course, what would a D&D game be without, well, dungeons or dragons? The dungeon delving aspect of the game is one that adds a lot of the flavour of the setting that I think is otherwise missing from the game. The four factions, while being traditional fantasy tropes, are just that – tropes. The dungeon guardians, however, include some of the more iconic D&D monsters and villains, including the Beholder and Drow Raiders. Defeating these guys will give you the gold to buy reinforcements, as well as treasures to use in your battles against your enemies, but the mechanic is crucial, for me, to keeping the game on-theme overall.

Conquest of Nerath was released in 2011, and aside from one promo treasure card released at GenCon that year, there has never been any kind of expansion for it. Which is absolutely fine, when you think about it! So many games in my collection have been expanded unto death, it feels oddly satisfying to have a game that is completely self-contained like this, and the strategic depth involved in your conquest is something that can keep the game going.

Highly recommended!

Upcoming Games!

Hey everybody!
It’s time for another game day extra, as I decided to catch up with some of the news around upcoming games over the weekend. So sit back and enjoy a look at three games that I’m really intrigued by, due out in the coming months!

Deathwatch: Overkill

Deathwatch: Overkill

Of course I’m going to start with something from Games Workshop! There have been rumours of a Deathwatch/Genestealer Cult boxed game coming out from GW for months now, but we finally have enough confirmation that I’m going to talk about it here! I am a huge fan of the Deathwatch – one of the first 40k novels I read was the short story collection, and I’ve always enjoyed the RPG from Fantasy Flight. I think the idea of a whole bunch of really great warriors from different chapters working together to purge the xenos just really captures my imagination! The pictures floating around of the Genestealer Cult are a little, erm, odd, but if it gets me some Deathwatch, then I’m in! It’ll be up for pre-order on Saturday, and released on 5 March, so I’ll no doubt have something to say about it then!

I’ve bought all of these boxed games they’ve released over the last few years, but this is the first one I feel that I really want to build up and paint to play the actual game, even though the details of it are still unknown. I simply want Deathwatch marines!

Star Wars: Rebellion

Star Wars: Rebellion

This has been the next big thing from Fantasy Flight for a while now, and a few weeks back they essentially had a publicity week where the only news published on their site was a series of previews for this.

When it was first announced, I wasn’t particularly chomping at the bit for it, I have to say. It looked a bit too messy, and I was worried it might be a huge time sink, the sort of game that you spend all night playing, only to feel like you would have been better off playing a lot of smaller games. At any rate, I wasn’t exactly going to drop £80 or whatever it turns out costing me on day one. However, the more I’ve seen of it, the more I’m beginning to revise that opinion somewhat.

The game looks like a juggernaut, there’s no denying this, but it looks like the kind of game that I would really enjoy sitting down for a few hours to pit myself against my opponent. There are actually very few games that I like that are both long and competitive. So while I still might not actually buy it on day one, I’m nevertheless changing my entire viewpoint on this one now, and may well be investing later this year!

Tyrants of the Underdark

Tyrants of the Underdark

A deck-building game coming in May, Tyrants of the Underdark pits players together as the drow houses of Menzoberranzan! This sounds really cool, as you play members of the ruling houses trying to control the most of the Underdark by the game end. I really like this idea, and while I’m not quite sure how it would work as a deck-builder – I think I’d prefer to see a more traditional CCG/LCG style of game, where each house feels different rather than just all being able to use the same cards – it’s still very exciting, I’ve got to say!

So those are three of the most-anticipated games, for me, that are due out in the coming weeks and months!

Feel the Wrath…

Hey everybody,
It’s time for another game day blog! Today’s will be a little short, but nevertheless awesome, as we delve once more into the dungeon, and face the Wrath of Ashardalon!

Wrath of Ashardalon

The second of the D&D Adventure System games, the rules are basically the same as those for Legend of Drizzt, which featured on my blog during my D&D week earlier in the year. You play an adventure as outlined in the adventure book, laying tiles as you explore the dungeon, and overcoming the fearsome enemies that live there. And my goodness, there are enemies!

Wrath of Ashardalon

This is perhaps my favourite box of the three games, simply because it has some wonderful miniatures for you to battle – least of all, the Beholder! Classic D&D monster. Ashardalon himself is also an impressive miniature there, and there are some truly horrible things like the formless Gibbering Mouthers, or the tentacled Grell. Wonderful stuff!

Wrath of Ashardalon

The dungeon itself feels more like an actual building this time, rather than the caverns of the Underdark, and instead of mushroom clusters to place the monsters, we have scorch marks. Fitting, given there’s a massive dragon down there! There are also doors on some tiles, as shown on the Vault above for instance, which need to be opened to continue the adventure.

Wrath of Ashardalon

Something more unique to this box, however, are the Chamber tiles, which are laid down all at once when instructed by the adventure. So you’ll draw the entrance tile, which has a black arrow as shown above so you’re having an Encounter there as well as facing a fairly closely-placed monster, then you set out the remaining tiles of the chamber to create a fairly wide space. Which is usually then filled with monsters. Yay.

Wrath of Ashardalon

The game is one of my all-time favourites, and was actually the first Adventure System game I bought. There’s not a lot to say beyond what has already been said for Legend of Drizzt, if I’m honest, but this is a truly great experience, and for me as a non-D&D RPG player (sigh), it feels generic enough that you can break it out whenever you like, rather than the more focused Drizzt or Ravenloft (still haven’t got Elemental Evil yet!)

At any rate, it’s highly recommended!

More Drizzt! More games! Just, more!

Hey everybody!
The last week or so has been filled with lots of awesome, predominantly from getting back to the amazing Legend of Drizzt series!

Moving on to #Drizzt book 8! #D&D #novels

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I finally got back to this series, after a nearly two-year hiatus, back in March, when I read the end of book 6, and moved onto book 7, The Legacy. That was a really great read, you can see more on that here, but I didn’t move on to the next one until now. I don’t actually remember if there was a reason, but anyway. Spoilers incoming! Starless Night picks up the story of Drizzt and his friends in the wake of Wulfgar’s death, and begins as Drizzt decides to return to Menzoberranzan, to avoid any further drow incursions into Mithral Hall. Little does he know that Matron Baenre plots the destruction of the dwarven kingdom no matter what, of course, as we saw briefly in the last book. Catti-brie discovers Drizzt has gone and, determined not to see another of her friends needlessly die, heads off in pursuit. The two eventually meet up in the Underdark, and manage to escape the Baenre compound with the help of none other than Artemis Entreri, though their hearts are heavy with the knowledge that the drow are amassing for war against the dwarves.

While I enjoyed The Legacy, after all that time spent on the surface, I loved Starless Night. It is perhaps a little formulaic at parts, but as always with these Drizzt books, the execution is just amazing. Salvatore continues to develop the Underdark beyond what we have already seen from the Dark Elf trilogy, this time particularly as we get to see more inside House Baenre, the first house of Menzoberranzan. The Matron Mother is just as cruel and twisted as you’d expect, as are some of her children. Most interesting among them are Dantrag, the weapons master who wields a sentient sword. It was a shame that he didn’t make it through the book, but I suppose there’s little else you could do with a character like that. Triel Baenre, the mistress mother of Arach-Tinilith, is another intriguing character, and her scenes with the flamboyant mercenary Jarlaxle were always fun to read. Jarlaxle has a prominent role to play here as well, which serves to deepen his character.

The whole story was pretty great, with a terrific sense of foreboding, or “things are about to happen tonight”. Weirdly, I kept feeling a comparison with the finale to the third Harry Potter book, with that sense of wheels being in motion and whatnot. It was a great read, and I’ve since propelled myself into the ninth book, Siege of Darkness, which has been excellent so far – look out for that one to grace this blog very soon!

The Beetroot Beefburgers, man they were good…

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Saturday was, of course, Independence Day, so to celebrate(?), I made burgers and watched American Dad. Not just any burgers, however! I came across a recipe somewhere for beetroot beefburgers and, being a lover of beetroot, had to give it a try! On reflection, I probably used too much, so they were a tad dry, but overall they were really good, and I will definitely be trying these again! Grating beetroot into the minced beef left my kitchen looking something like a crime scene, but even so! Very simple to make, just grate the beets into the beef (I used three with 200g of mince, one might be a better idea), mix in an egg, and away we go!

Marvellous!

In the middle of dozens of other projects, there's always time for

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Despite having multiple projects on the go already, this weekend also saw me make up some more Necron Immortals, along with Trazyn the Infinite. I’ve been slowly getting back into painting, as I’ve been trying to finish off the Canoptek Wraiths I started over a month ago. I’ve not gotten very far, unfortunately, but that seems to be the story of my life where big stuff is concerned – bigger than your average foot soldier, that is. I’ve had four Tomb Blades awaiting their finishing touches for ages now, as well. As I seem to be better at getting the smaller guys finished, I thought I’d make up some more, get them done, and then (hopefully!) get back into the swing of things that way. Miniatures painting is something that I really enjoy, after all, but has felt more akin to a drudgery of late.

Immortals

Trazyn the Infinite is perhaps the most hilarious of the special character models, with his backstory of wanting to preserve everything in the universe in his own collection. If I remember rightly, he has some weird ability that allows you to replace him with any other member of the unit he’s attached to when in combat, due to some kind of phase-shifting technology. He seems interesting, but more than that, I enjoy the special models for the fact that I can paint them with different colour schemes and such. That said, I’m considering doing something different with the Immortals this time, as well – the new golden paints coming out soon look very interesting, after all, so I think I might try something more special with these guys…

Immortals

This week has been pretty good for games, of course. Along with the announcements of new cycles for both Android Netrunner and Star Wars, we’ve had a new data pack for Netrunner as well as the inaugural pack in the Angmar Awakened cycle for Lord of the Rings! There’s an interesting day/night mechanic in this one, and I cannot wait to try it out, but feel like I need to first play through the Lost Realm box. I’ve got all the quests sleeved now, anyway, so I’m ready to go on that front. No doubt there’ll be some posts here where I bemoan my performance…

I actually got a few games of Netrunner in at the local store again last week, with my tried and trusted Shaper deck, and lost both. But they were fantastic losses, so I can’t complain! Very thematic, so definitely lots of fun. I feel like I want to try out new decks now, however, as I spent one night reorganising my entire Netrunner collection. I usually keep LCGs in their expansion boxes, as it’s convenient and I like the packaging, but now FFG has moved to this horrible plastic nonsense, I’ve decided to change that, and have instead gone for keeping the entire cardpool in both core set boxes (I’m one of these who bought two core sets). So far it works, but I foresee a time very soon where I’m going to run out of space there, as well! Hm. At any rate, going through that reorganisation, and seeing the entire card pool for each faction all at once, has really opened up my eyes to the deckbuilding possibilities in the game, so I’m keen to explore with that, rather than continually playing my one Shaper deck.

We’ll see just how splendidly that works out, anyway…

The Legacy

Ah, Drizzt. I’ve been loving this series for years now – you can read all about that here, of course! Last night saw me finish the seventh installment, The Legecy.

The Legacy

The book picks up right off following the last one – in fact, it starts as the last one is ending! HOWEVER! (Oh, ahem… here be spoilers!) We see Bruenor Battlehammer preparing for the wedding of Wulfgar and Cattie-Brie, when the report of goblin activity in the lower mines draws the dwarves out to investigate. A series of dungeon-delving adventures ensue, with Drizzt separated from the others. Why? Well, because we finally get to see what his family has been up to since he left Menzoberranzan in the Dark Elf trilogy!

Following the raid on the Do’Urden compound that left all but Dinin and Vierna dead, things have been pretty rough. Dinin has fallen in with the mercenary band of Braegan D’arthe, headed by the flamboyant Jarlaxle, while Vierna has become obsessed with recovering her former glory. Are the Do’Urdens really out of favour with Lolth? Vierna’s ability first to wield a snake-headed whip, then to turn Dinin into a dreaded Drider (remember the spoiler from the board game?!), to say nothing of her ability to summon a yochlol, seem to point to the fact that they are once again on the up. However, the behind-the-scenes machinations of House Baenre might point to a more convoluted theory. Following a long period of mine chases, Drizzt finally manages to defeat his sister in combat, but Wulfgar is killed by the yochlol, leading to an utter desolation in Mithral Hall.

Dun dun duuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuun!

For me, this book turned out to be quite difficult to categorise. On the one hand, I really enjoyed the return to the Underdark, and seeing the evil drow once more. It was really good to catch up with the surviving members of Drizzt’s family, and to see what evil schemes were being hatched this time around. However, the repetitive nature of the book, with the bulk of it taking place in the twisting corridors beneath Mithral Hall, it felt, well, repetitive.

Artemis Entreri is back, in a completely unexpected manner, and I really enjoyed seeing him once again, though his obsession with battling Drizzt did begin to wear a little thin after a while. Just what all those shenanigans with the bat-wings were towards the end, that was just a little too goofy, as well. Not really sure about that at all.

Wulfgar was a real jerk for the majority of this book, as well. Seeing his character development, while it did kinda make sense, annoyed me so utterly that I was actually glad to see the yochlol eat him. A part of me, of course, hasn’t actually written him off yet. Until I see his mangled corpse, I’m not entirely convinced. As an aside, I got the impression that Salvatore, seeing how successful the character of Drizzt became in his trilogy about Wulfgar, decided to kill off the barbarian in order to concentrate on the elf. Of course, I don’t yet know if he’s really dead – along with the ‘no body rule’, I’m suspicious because of the fact they turned up Aegis-fang in that mound of rubble, but no sign of the big guy. Hm.

I am, however, trying to avoid reading anything on this subject, in case it proves or disproves my suspicions before I read the rest of the books!

So a strong beginning, but a bit of a mess the longer it went on. I’m actually going to take a break for a while, as I want to get reading some other stuff, so will likely move on to book eight after a couple of weeks. It’ll be interesting to see what happens next, though!

Back to the Dungeon!

Hey everybody!
As D&D week comes to a close here at spalanz.com, I wanted to take some time to talk about something particularly special to me, the D&D cartoon!

Dungeons & Dragons

A product of the early 80s, I must admit to having come quite late to this one, being introduced to it around 2 years ago – again, my friend Tony has a lot to answer for! Something that I haven’t yet delved into on this blog is my love of retro cartoons. Being a child of the 80s, these are things I’ve grown up with and loved, and will always have a special place for me! Hopefully this year, I’ll get to share more of these classics with you, in my own inimitable fashion!

Anyway.

The D&D cartoon, as I said, is something that I’d been aware of, but hadn’t any real recollection of from my childhood. I recall a trip to the local HMV store back when I was in college, where Tony was eyeing up the D&D boxset, but I went for Visionaries back then… ah, happy days! But then, around two or so years ago, he loaned me his copies of the DVDs, so I sat down to watch them with a bag of tortilla chips and some salsa (this is very important!), and found myself really enjoying them!

The show tells the story of a group of kids who, after going on a D&D ride at a theme park, are transported to the realm of D&D and need to find their way home. They are pursued by Venger, but assisted by the Dungeon Master, who gives each a power weapon to assist in their quest. The feel of the show is very much along the lines of an adventure in the sense of the RPG, with the kids set a task they have to accomplish.

Enjoyed that? I hope you did! The second episode in the series is particularly good, featuring the classic D&D monster, the Beholder!

It wasn’t long after being introduced to this cartoon that I found myself having to move house, and what was a very stressful time became so much easier thanks to the little bit of escapism these shows offered to me! This, and BraveStarr, but that’s a subject for another blog! I’d watched maybe ten episodes before I was in my new place, and one of the first things I did was begin watching them again from the beginning, of course, with tortilla chips and salsa!

D&D

Over the course of about a month, I made it through all 27 episodes of the show, including this one, episode 13, a loose retelling of Jack and the Beanstalk:

OH MY GOODNESS ME, I remembered this episode almost word-for-word from when I was about 5 or 6! While it’s hardly a particularly awesome tale, for me it was absolutely awesome from start to finish! What a tidal wave of memories.

Yes, sadly, 27 episodes is the entire run. A 28th was written, but never produced. The kids never did find their way home on the screen, but in a way that’s not really a bad thing. I mean, we never really saw the beginning of the story, only the truncated events of the opening credits (which, really, is all that’s needed anyway). The show really doesn’t have a beginning or an end, it’s just a series of adventures. And I’m pretty fine with that, I must say!

I love this series, though. I hope that, in sharing some of these cartoons, I’ve been able to share some of the awesome with you – remember, if you want the whole lot, the box set is available!

dungeons-dragons_L39

Dungeons and Dragons week may be over now, but this is definitely not the last you’ll be reading of it on my blog, anyway!

Until next time!