Games, Games, Games!

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


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

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

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

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

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

Moving on!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Catching Up

Hey everybody!
It’s been a while, hasn’t it? Seems like life has been passing me by recently, as I have been focused a bit on work – I’ve got an interview this coming Tuesday for a promotion, so we’ll see what comes from that. More money for plastic crack, maybe?! We shall see!

Speaking of plastic, let’s start with the main topic of the day…

I’m not a big fan of the new Necrons, having now seen them in the flesh, as I wasn’t keen on the sculpted battle damage. For my Necrons, I’ve tried to paint them more like a pristine sort of warrior race, with the advanced tech that means they don’t retain battle damage like that. While I’m not entirely fussed yet on the Necrons, I have been admiring those Space Marines…

However, Chaos has become a major thing for me, considering I’d planned for Genestealer Cults to be my 9th Edition army! I’ve long wanted a force of Heretic Astartes, and having started with the idea of a Cultist rabble, I’ve now moved more into the realms of actual marines in the list. Today has been quite exciting though, as I’ve finished painting the Master of Possession from the Shadowspear box set! Finally!

I’m really pleased with this chap, and have followed the tutorial for the fire in particular from The Brush & Boltgun, which was a godsend! I’ve not had a chance yet to look at the other stuff on the channel, but it looks like a lot of the stuff that I have on the list, anyway, so it might be worth mining that stuff!

Speaking of which, I’ve finally picked up a Chaos Rhino for the nascent force, which I’ve wanted to get a hold of since seeing this wonderful piece of art from another of my favourite instagram’ers, Martin Sivertsen:

I mean, look at it! It’s absolutely beautiful, and I hope mine will come out a mere tenth as good! I’ve actually made an order for a second Rhino, as well as a Forgefiend (which I’ve wanted for a long time, as well) and a Dialogus for the nascent Sisters army!

Have I posted a picture of the Sisters here yet? Can’t remember, so here you go:

Looking forward to getting these painted up, however long they might take!

Moving on to a different game now, though…

My wife and I have been enjoying a few games of Elder Sign in recent weeks, as we’ve re-established Friday nights as gaming nights, and it’s been an absolute blast to be playing once more!

We’ve played a few times with the core set, as we get back into it all, and so last night we played with the first expansion, Unseen Forces, which I thought might be the best one to start with, as pretty much every other expansion has the Gates of Arkham rules and ramps up the difficulty! We had a couple of games with Unseen Forces, and while we managed to save the world from Shudde M’ell with just three locations left to explore per turn, we came under attack from Abhoth and it all went wrong.

It’s great to be back playing games from Fantasy Flight, I’m feeling really quite nostalgic for the whole thing! Of course, we’re slap bang in the middle of GenCon 2020 right now, but it all feels a bit weird with the global pandemic ongoing. FFG have shown off a few Star Wars bits, such as more Clone Wars era stuff for Armada, X-Wing and Legion, and that’s about all that I’ve managed to glean from the internets right now! Of course, it’s always an online event for me, but it feels particularly odd right now, regardless!

What else has been going on?

I’ve read quite a few books since I last came here to provide a review, so will doubtless have some thoughts on them to share with you all! I’ve also been reading the rest of The Flash’s run through the New 52, so will sometime soon get a round-up blog sorted for that! I’ve also been catching up with the DC movies that I’ve not seen, after watching Man of Steel a few weeks ago. So there will be plenty of blogs incoming once I have the time to properly sit down once again!

Okay, so it’s been pushed back, but there’s a Mandalorian novel due next year?! This news has excited me far more than I’d expected! Still very excited to see what season two has got in store for us, even though I’ve been really disappointed how it seems to be heavily leaning into the Clone Wars cartoons with the casting news that we’ve seen. Still, maybe live-action Ahsoka won’t be so damn annoying as to make me want to tear my own face off… time will tell! I think The Mandalorian is about the only thing Star Wars that I’m looking forward to right now, though, so I hope it won’t be disappointing!

Anyway, time to cease my ramblings, I think! Hope you’re all having an amazing Saturday, and stay tuned for more blogs coming as the summer progresses!

Omens of Ice

Hey everybody!
It’s time for another game day here at, and this week I’m taking a look at the latest expansion for Elder Sign: Omens of Ice! (This blog was originally slated to come out in Halloween week, where it would have made more thematic sense…)

Elder Sign: Omens of Ice

Elder Sign is one of my favourite games to break out for an evening of cosmic horror and dice rolling. The Gates of Arkham expansion from early 2015 introduced a new mode of play for the game, where we left the museum behind and ventured into the various neighbourhoods of the town. Omens of Ice is an expansion in the very same mould, as we venture into the Alaskan wilderness, following the mysterious goings-on in the wake of the discovery of a statue of Ithaqua…

Elder Sign: Omens of Ice

I love the snow theme in pretty much any game (The Frozen Wastes for Runebound being a prime example of this!) and was truly enraptured by the Mountains of Madness expansion for Eldritch Horror for the amount of theme that comes through in the gameplay there. Omens of Ice feels very similar to these games, as you need to ration your supplies as you face the biting cold.

Omens of Ice features a staged encounter deck, where the cards you encounter in stage one vary between the green (easy) and yellow (normal) difficulty, while stage two are only the yellow and red (hard) cards. I really like this because it allows the designers to make the game feel like you’re trudging into the wilderness, and passing into stage two actually means something. It really echoes the source material such as Algernon Blackwood’s The Wendigo, where the earlier part of the story feels ‘safe’ while the later parts in the wilderness are most assuredly not!

Elder Sign: Omens of Ice

The Expedition Camp card replaces the Museum Entry card, and acts like that card in every way. The Track card tracks both your supplies (based on the time of year) and the length of your adventure. Supplies are a new commodity that have an impact on the game that can, for instance, affect the stamina of your investigators if you don’t have any. The day track is linked to the clock, unsurprisingly, and advances whenever the clock strikes midnight. If the track reaches the end during Summer, you just add two doom tokens to the Ancient One track and move back to the Day 7 space; in Winter, however, if you take too long on your investigation, you’ll lose the game!

The day track also governs the Storm mechanic. Storm tokens act like penalties on encounter cards, and are placed on encounters through various effects, such as on the Ancient One track or through failing to complete an encounter, as well as through the day track. Some of them are blank, but some of them will cause you to lose health or supplies, etc. Some of them are blank, however, merely clouds threatening on the horizon rather than an actual threat for you to deal with!

Elder Sign: Omens of Ice

There is also a new deck of Alaskan Mythos Cards that features some horrible new effects to reflect the biting winter conditions.

Elder Sign: Omens of Ice

The new investigators are a mixed bag already in the Arkham Horror universe, while the Ancient Ones feature the iconic Ithaqua himself, naturally! The item and spell cards are the usual mix of giving your investigators bonus dice – including two items that each allow you to take the red or yellow die even if it is locked. Not sure how game-breaking that could be, as while it is a pain when you have a bunch of stuff you can’t use because the die is locked, it’s still a fundamental aspect of the struggle in this game. I haven’t yet had the specific situation come up to see how game-changing it could be, but the thought is there…

Elder Sign: Omens of Ice

Overall, I really like this expansion a lot. It’s difficult, don’t get me wrong – I haven’t actually managed to win a game yet, with the timed mechanic from the day tracker causing me a lot of problems – but it’s also super-thematic, which is something that I really enjoy about FFG’s Lovecraftian games. While I wouldn’t call the Call of Cthulhu LCG a misstep, I do feel that the co-operative struggle against the Ancient Ones is a much better way to implement mythos games, and was really pleased to see that avenue for the upcoming Arkham Horror LCG.

EDIT: Since writing this blog, FFG have announced a fourth expansion to Elder Sign, Omens of the Deep, again using the Gates of Arkham mode for gameplay. Looks like this is now the set manner for the game, and I can’t wait for both it and further ‘Omens of’ expansions to come out. Maybe Omens of the Sands for an Under the Pyramids-style expansion? We’ll have to wait and see!


Hey everybody!
It’s time for another game day here at and, because I’ve been so tied-up with writing an essay lately, I’ve not managed to get in as many games as I’d like. Consequently, this will only be a little blog for today as I take a look at some of the smaller stuff available to expand your games of Elder Sign. Let’s begin!

Elder Sign Grave Consequences

Fantasy Flight recently released Grave Consequences, a small expansion of print-on-demand cards to enhance the play experience. This is really a collection of three mini-expansions, modular by nature, that echo a lot of the content put out for Arkham Horror back in the day.

Elder Sign Grave Consequences

Most obvious of the Arkham tie-ins is the deck of Epic Battle cards. If you’re not careful and the Ancient One’s doom track fills up, it’s usually a case of battling back and forth as you try to remove doom tokens before being devoured, but now we have this little deck that adds a bit more theme to the final confrontation. It’s very similar to the deck introduced in Kingsport Horror, with each card usually split in two, describing effects when the investigators attack, and when the Ancient One attacks back. Some cards are ‘battle events’ that tell you to do different stuff before drawing a new card. Either way, it’s a nice addition.

Elder Sign Grave Consequences

The real meat of this mini expansion, for me, is the Phobias deck. Whenever an investigator goes insane, rather than being devoured, they replenish their sanity but draw one of these cards, which has some kind of lasting effect for the rest of the game. Very similar to the Injury and Madness cards introduced in Dunwich Horror, this is really what I got the expansion for.

The third and final deck is the Epitaph deck, which acts as something of a parting shot for a devoured investigator. When your chap is devoured, you draw one of these cards and resolve its effects, before then placing your character chit on the card back. Personally I would have preferred to see an Injury deck to parallel the Phobias deck, but maybe that will be for another expansion. At any rate, it does add a nice bit of theme to the game!

The rest of the stuff I’m going to talk about today is promotional material that is largely freely available online, thanks to the terrific folks over at

Elder Sign promo ancient one cards

In October/November every year, FFG run an event called Arkham Nights, which allows folks to come together to play one of the many Lovecraftian-themed games the company produces. Each year, a bag of swag is given out that has ties to some of these games, the most recent event having domain cards for Call of Cthulhu LCG, for instance. However, since 2011, all of these events have also featured a promotional Ancient One card for Elder Sign, which I think is both really cool and bums me out, because I can’t make it to these things to enjoy the goodness!

2011: Daoloth Render of the Veils
2012: Shub Niggurath A Thousand Young
2013: Yog-Sothoth The Beyond One
2014: The Dark God Primordial Evil
2015: Ubbo-Sathla Unbegotten Source

While it bums me out that I don’t get to enjoy the properly-printed cards, Ancient Ones are normally a card where it doesn’t matter if the cardstock is different. I know some folks like to shuffle it up and pick their AO at random, but I prefer to know who I’m facing (largely I choose the AO because I don’t want to be playing the same ones over and over).

All of these new Ancient Ones has something interesting to offer. I particularly enjoy Daoloth, whose gameplay effect really makes you consider if you want to visit that Other World for its Elder Signs, or else leave it in play in case a Mythos card forces you to place a monster. I recently played against The Dark God for the first time, whose effect quite sinister in that he forces you to lose one stamina and one sanity or lock a green die on the AO card for the remainder of the round. It sounds pretty bad, though there are plenty of ways around this kind of loss that it isn’t always that bad.

Their effects can be quite alarming, however, and they often feel like they’re more complicated than the regular release Ancient Ones. Ubbo-Sathla, from last year’s Arkham Nights, has a lot of interaction with monsters on the table, and while he’s one that I find myself looking forward to going up against, I foresee some complicated game-states to come!

Lastly, we have the two promo adventure cards, The Hand of Solace and Log of the Persephone, which can be seen on the right of my tweet above. Unlike the promo AO cards, these ones really need to be the proper printing, of course, as they’ll get mixed into the deck. FFG made these available via coupons printed in the back of some of the books they published that tie into the Arkham universe such the Dark Waters trilogy. For the cost of shipping, and tearing a page out of the book, you could get the cards sent to you. Personally, I’m not a fan of tearing up books, but additional material for my favourite games is perhaps worth it!

A lot of people on the internet will tell you that these books are crap, but I actually liked those that I’ve read so far, and have even written a blog on the Dark Waters trilogy!

As for the cards themselves, well they’re nothing particularly great, just more of the same really. I think I more enjoyed the Oliver Grayson ally card for Arkham Horror, actually. Of course, it’s nice to have these things, but I honestly think I get more of a kick out of having the thematic connection to a book that I enjoyed, which makes me wonder if the people who say they tore the coupon out for the cards then tossed the book unread actually enjoy having this stuff as much as me…

So there you have it, a bit of a whirlwind tour through the extra bits available for Elder Sign, a game that I haven’t played recently as often as I would like!

Exciting times!

Hey everybody!
Exciting times are indeed around the corner! There’s usually a good amount of stuff around the festive season that I look forward to from the gaming world, and while this year seems to be a bit quieter than usual, nevertheless something huge dropped on Friday that I can’t wait to see:

Elder Sign Omens of Ice

Elder Sign is one of my favourites, and a new expansion is always to be welcomed! Staying with the “Streets of Arkham” game mode, we have a deck that features Alaskan locations as something out of left field, yet something that I really cannot wait to see! There is a heavy weight towards Antarctica in Lovecraftian mythos circles, it’s really interesting to see a snow/ice theme set somewhere else. Separating the game into stages, and an emphasis on seasonal adventure both seem like they should be a totally new way to experience the game. Not out until early next year, it’s nevertheless something to keep an eye on!

We’re also seeing the start of two new cycles for LCGs: the Endor cycle for Star Wars, and the Planetfall cycle for Warhammer 40k Conquest. They both seem to have been a long time coming, but will no doubt prove to be nice additions to the game.

Finished this bad boy today, what a book! #HorusHeresy

A photo posted by Mark (@marrrkusss) on

Speaking of 40k, I finished reading the second Horus Heresy novel yesterday, False Gods. Written by Graham McNeill, it’s somewhat more straightforward than Horus Rising, but still an enjoyable read. I was particularly impressed by the way the story unfolded – despite knowing how the whole Heresy thing ends, I found myself actually shocked by the way the events happened, so that by the end of the book I had to remind myself that I was waiting for this to happen!

It’s the sort of book that occurs mid-way through a trilogy, where everything gets shot to hell. While Horus was actually a nice guy in the first book, he has since come under the sway of Chaplain Erebus of the Word Bearers, and a definite change has been wrought in him. Unfortunately, it’s a change that begins to transform the entire Legion, and while a certain inevitability is seen in the characters such as Abaddon and Lucius, you do begin to genuinely feel bad for the “good” guys Loken and Torgaddon. Horus Aximand emerges as a bit more grey, and you don’t know exactly which way he will go at this point. But for most of the book, I found myself thinking, “no, why would you do that?!” with a kind of impotent frustration. There were some weird bits, such as the whole spirit-journey type thing that Horus goes on, but overall, it was a good book.

I’m currently on a bit of a hiatus though, as I’m preparing myself for next week’s movie release…

Having found myself somewhat ambivalent about the new film for a very long time now, I booked my ticket last week as I still intend to see the film, simply because it’s Star Wars. But I’ve noticed that, as we enter into the “less than a week to go” period, I am getting a little caught up in the whole thing.

As long-time readers will no doubt know, I am a huge Star Wars fan, but the acquisition by Disney has left me a little cold, as the Star Wars I grew up with was removed from history in favour of their direction, which has been a little lacklustre for me, to say the least. As time has worn on, I’ve been feeling a bit meh about the whole thing, thinking that the new stuff isn’t that great, but is replacing much better stuff in my opinion. However, more importantly, I feel that the sense of importance around the Star Wars movies is diminishing as we’re being promised more. There has always been something quite magical about the fact that, for a long time, there were only ever three movies, and then there were only ever six movies. As more stuff comes out, we begin to reach a saturation point that takes away from that magic. Very soon, we’ll be talking in terms of “another new Star Wars movie” rather than it being any kind of event. So The Force Awakens will mark the last time we’ll be able to feel this kind of magic, because from here on out, they’re going to become so much more prevalent, it’s a little bit sad.

But hey, that’s just my opinion.

I’ve just come across the excellent Geekritique’s blog on the new planets of Episode VII, which you should definitely check out if you haven’t already, because the new worlds are often as exciting as the new characters who populate them. I won’t lie, in no small part has reading this helped to bring on that excitement!

My ticket is booked for 4.15 on Thursday afternoon, so I’ll no doubt have something posted here Thursday evening for you all to enjoy, anyway!

Unseen Forces

Hey everybody!
Welcome to another game day blog here on! As Halloween approaches, I thought I’d get in the spirit of things with a feature on the first expansion to that classic of dice/card games, Elder Sign – it’s time for Unseen Forces!

Elder Sign Unseen Forces

This expansion was first released in 2013, and was one of the first new games that I bought following moving into my new flat. As a result, I have certain fond memories of this game that perhaps override any other feelings I might have towards it. But anyways! It was an eagerly-awaited expansion to a game that had been out for two years already, and a lot of people had begun to feel was stale and easy. Perhaps as a result of this, the expansion features a lot of things that seem specifically engineered to make it harder than the base game, though also a lot of the new stuff is super thematic that it still manages to appeal to me. Let’s take a look!

In addition to new heroes and new ancient ones, we have a plethora of new location cards, and these are one of the ways the game tries to make things harder. The tests are tougher, there are more locations where monsters appear, or that have at midnight effects and so forth, so that generally you have a much harder time in the museum this time around.

There are very few actual new mechanics in the expansion – in fact, if you’re going to remember this expansion for anything, it’ll be just one: cursed/blessed. This is something that is very present in Arkham Horror of course, but hadn’t been explored in the base game for Elder Sign. If you’re an Arkham Horror fan (or if you’ve read my blog on that game), you’ll know that cursed investigators only achieve a success on the roll of a 6, while blessed investigators achieve success on a 4, 5 or 6. So how to implement that mechanic in a game with no basic six-sided dice? Well, the method is actually quite effective.

Elder Sign Unseen Forces

We have a black die for cursed, and a white die for blessed, and they have exactly the same sides as the normal green dice from the base game. However, while the white die is just a generic bonus that gives you a greater chance of achieving your tasks, the black one removes any result it matches from your pool, which can sometimes be completely innocuous, or other times completely treacherous and, well, cursed! It’s a really fun way to implement an old favourite mechanic in a new game, and I’m really glad they kept it in the second expansion, Gates of Arkham!

Elder Sign Unseen Forces

In the spirit of making things harder, we also have two small tweaks to the Mythos deck. First is the “mythos insight” mechanic (shown above in the top rank of cards), which allows the investigators to choose what happens when the card is revealed. You must choose something that can actually happen, so in the above example you can’t choose to discard an Other World card if none are in play. This does add to the tension somewhat, as the lower option is usually much, much worse than the upper portion. Secondly there is a small number of “master mythos” cards that can be shuffled into the deck. These have a red-tinged border, and generally provide a tougher experience for players.

What other fun times do we have in here? Oh yes…

Elder Sign Unseen Forces

The entrance card is now four separate cards for each section – because certain card effects can close these sections, either temporarily or permanently! While this is a fairly big change of course, the bigger change is that you can no longer purchase elder signs at the souvenir shop, which in many gamers’ minds – mine, included – is a very sensible decision. Anyone who has seen the Tabletop episode will know that this potentially game-changing mechanic is actually quite un-thematic. I mean, elder signs are supposed to be powerful and rare artifacts: would they really be on offer among the other novelty keyrings and paperweights? Hm. Good move there, I feel.

Elder Sign Unseen Forces

It’s not all bad, of course, as we see there have been some interesting changes made to the common items, unique items and spells. Rather than merely providing bonus dice, or ways to lock down favourable rolls, we have more cards that do actual stuff – of course, not as many as Gates of Arkham provided, but certainly enough! This has definitely taken the expansion line in the right direction.

If you’ve been reading this overview thinking “this is just more of the same”, then you’re absolutely right. Like many board game expansions, this one provides a slew of more components to add to existing decks, with very few actual gameplay tweaks. A lot of game lines start off this way, with future expansions providing the really game-changing stuff, and of course Elder Sign is no different there. Is this a bad thing? I don’t think so. Yes, it comes across as possibly one of the most generic expansions of any board game ever, but as I have discussed a lot in previous blogs, there is actually a lot to be said for these types of expansions. While Arkham Horror fans often delight in the maddening complexity of using multiple expansions with the base game to create an enormous gameplay experience, and I’m certainly one such fan, sometimes a game is enjoyable enough that having just more of the same is more than enough. This is particularly true of any game with an exploration element to it – games like A Touch of Evil, Runebound, and yes, Elder Sign. Of course, the nature of the base mechanics of Elder Sign means that continued expansion in this manner is perhaps unwise, and Gates of Arkham was without a doubt exactly what the game needed to freshen it up, but I feel that the totally game-changing nature of that expansion has left Unseen Forces somewhat overshadowed now.

If you’re new to the game, I can definitely recommend this expansion over Gates of Arkham for providing new gameplay options without the weight of a massively-changed system. Aside from the Dunwich Horror throwbacks, it has a lot of small tweaks that enhance the experience from the base game while remaining playable right out of the box. Don’t be tempted by the allure of the new, as this one still has a lot to offer!

Elder Sign!

Hey folks!

I’ve found myself playing a lot of Elder Sign again recently, which has been partly spurred on by rewatching a lot of the shows over on Geek & Sundry, primarily TableTop. For the uninitiated, here’s the Elder Sign episode that I’m mainly referring to here:

Elder Sign is a really great game, in case you skipped the video, and I can definitely recommend it if you’ve yet to experience it! I featured the game in my blog last year for Halloween week, which you can read here. It’s had two expansions released for it, the most recent of which – Gates of Arkham – has made it under my spotlight of awesome here, as well. Hopefully in the not-too-distant future, I’ll be making it to the first expansion on this blog, also!

Elder Sign

I’m a big fan of the Arkham Horror universe, anyway, but this is beginning to take over the big guy as my go-to Lovecraftian game, predominantly due to its ease of set-up. The new Streets of Arkham mode is the closest yet to bringing the Arkham experience to a card game, and I’m still really impressed at how well the designers have implemented this change while keeping the spirit of the base game almost intact.

This evening I had another trip through the Streets of Arkham, which ended in a victory, though saw the demise of poor Patrice Hathaway to the all-seeing Yibb-Tstll…the little devil! Streets of Arkham mode is definitely more difficult than the base game, and as already mentioned, brings an entirely new feel to the Elder Sign experience. I had initially thought it was a curiously hybrid experience, but after playing it some more, it’s actually just a really great way to play!

Of course, I still really enjoy the base game of Elder Sign as it is, with no need for expansions. The other week I had a game against Hastur, prompted by the TableTop video as I couldn’t recall the last time I’d played against the King in Yellow. It was a very close call, where a run of bad luck saw all manner of die-locks while seven doom tokens were added in far too quick succession, but good prevailed and the King slumbers still…

While there have only been two boxed expansions, FFG has released a fair few bits for this game as promotional material, such as for the Arkham Nights events. Four new Ancient One cards have come out in this way, and you can download them from boardgamegeek now:

Yog Sothoth (distinct from the new version)
The Dark God

There are also two location cards that were available through tie-in novels to the Arkham Horror universe. I’ll be taking a look at these novels in future blogs, but suffice it to say, a lot of people bought these books for the cards alone, though I can actually say that they’re really good reads in their own right!

Anyhow, Elder Sign remains in my top-ten all-time favourite games, and while I can wax lyrical about it all day, it’s so much easier if you just go out and get yourself a copy! You won’t regret it!

Roll some dice, and save the world!

Through the Gates!

Elder Sign: Gates of Arkham

Morning everyone!

Here at, every Tuesday is game day, and recently I’ve been varying the format from simple looking at old favourites, such as my attempts to learn a new game and reviews of upcoming games. Today, I’m going with the first-thoughts on a new game, albeit a game expansion – the Gates of Arkham expansion for Elder Sign!

I was quite excited to receive this in the mail last week, as I hadn’t realised it was actually out yet! Seems our American cousins have yet to see it hit the shelves, but I hope they get it soon, as it’s a really good alternative to the base game.

In many ways, then, this is what I’d like to see a lot more from game companies. While it does largely depend on the type of game under discussion, of course, sometimes ‘more of the same’ just isn’t enough, and you want something more from a boardgame expansion. Gates of Arkham delivers this and more, as it comes with an entirely new game mode, Streets of Arkham, as well as providing additional content that you can mix in with the base game for an enhanced experience. Furthermore, it also builds on the previous expansion in at least one way, serving to integrate itself fully into the line.

Elder Sign: Gates of Arkham

The bulk of this expansion, then, is the Streets of Arkham mode. The museum adventure cards are replaced by Arkham adventures, three of which start the game face up, and three face down. These cards are double-sided, so you can’t simply ignore the face-down set as they’ll be having At Midnight effects going off, whether you like it or not! The adventures are very similar to those in the museum, at any rate, although I did feel like they were more difficult, but that could just have been the combination of new heroes and new game…

Elder Sign: Gates of Arkham

Some of the cards have Entry effects on them, which is a new effect that takes place as soon as you move to that adventure. Once you’re there, you encounter it as normal, and either win or lose as normal. Rewards and Penalties have changed slightly, in that there are now some that are split, giving you a choice of which you have (though you must be able to complete all of those you choose, especially important in the case of penalties).

You can also see on the picture above some new sigils on the cards. This is something that I really like about the expansion – you can become a member of the Sheldon Gang, or the Order of the Silver Twilight! How wonderful. Once inducted, you take a membership card, and when you encounter future adventures, some of them (such as the top task of the Inner Sanctum adventure, shown above) are considered automatically passed if you are a member of that group. You also get additional rewards for completing certain adventures. Wonderful!

Elder Sign: Gates of Arkham

The game also introduces Skills, the blue cards, which can be very useful, acting as more permanent items really. Events are denoted by the red symbol on cards such as the aforementioned Inner Sanctum, which are triggered during your resolution phase. A bit of a mixed bag, though most are bad news.

But what about the Gates? I hear you cry.

Well, Gates of Arkham introduces the mechanic of sealing gates to this game, which I thought was particularly neat! Gates open mostly when a doom token is placed on the yellow symbol of an Ancient One’s doom track, though mythos cards can also spawn a gate. When this happens, a gate marker is placed on an Arkham adventure card, with its corresponding token placed on a face-down Other World card. Investigators can’t encounter that Arkham adventure, but can move through the gate, whereupon the Other World card is turned face up, and they can encounter the card on their next turn. Once the Other World card is completed, the gate tokens are removed and a seal marker is placed on that Arkham adventure, preventing a gate from opening again (until a mythos card discards all seals, of course!)

While I thought it a neat idea, it does make the game somewhat laborious to get through the Other Worlds. Also, plastic stands are provided for the gate markers, but I didn’t really like these (though the idea of a gate standing up is certainly appealing!). There are new Other Worlds in this expansion, including many not before seen in FFG’s Lovecraftian games, which I thought particularly interesting.

As stated, there are new Investigators and Ancient Ones, as well as monsters, spells, common items, unique items, and allies, which can be mixed in with the regular game. We also get a new mythos deck which is specifically used for Streets of Arkham mode, and many of the components feature a small yellow exclamation mark, meaning they are only to be used with this expansion:

Elder Sign: Gates of Arkham

In the game I played at the weekend, I used Trish Scarborough and Akachi Onyele against Ghatanothoa. Both investigators were killed off fairly quickly, replaced by Tommy Muldoon and Finn Edwards, who were equally unable to prevent Ghatanothoa from waking. That said, the dice were suddenly with me and I managed to beat him back into submission, which is (I think) only the second time I’ve won this game with an Ancient One defeat! I was a little disappointed in Trish, as her Eldritch Horror incarnation is a really excellent one!

Overall, I’m very pleased with this expansion. The new stuff is all good (spells you can cast on another player’s turn!), the new game mode is very promising, and it’s the usual top-notch quality you can expect from FFG. It’s also an impressive weight, having an entire brick of new encounter cards!

I’m looking forward to playing more of this over the coming months, and can definitely recommend it!

Buy it from amazon:
Gates of Arkham

Some weekend reflections

weekend reflections 2

Hey everybody!
So here we are, another weekend closer to Christmas! Whether you celebrate the holiday season or not, I hope you’re nevertheless planning some awesome times for midwinter! Personally, I’m leaning quite heavily toward getting more time with Eldritch Horror. Last year, I had the core game, and it has become such a big favourite of mine in the last twelve months, I think it’s only fitting! Of course, we’re also expecting the expansion very soon, which is just far too many kinds of awesome! I’ve not been following the spoilers all that religiously – I’m waiting to have it in-hand before I begin to look at mechanics and whatnot, but the news has certainly been showing some very interesting things for us to look forward to!


I actually read At the Mountains of Madness around this time last year, as I like to read at least one Lovecraft tale at Christmas. Having now finished the book I’ve been reading, I’m considering something Weird next…

The big news at the minute, of course, is the release of Imperial Assault. Still being delivered, according to FFG’s website, my local game store apparently had it in stock this morning – is this the merger of FFG and Asmodee declaring itself? They did say they’d benefit from Asmodee’s distribution network in Europe, but while I’ve occasionally had stuff in hand here in the UK when our US cousins are still waiting, it’s never been something this big before… That said, I don’t actually have it in hand, as I’m kinda passing on this one for now. Long-time readers will know my struggles with getting other folks to play games like this, so I’m thinking I might as well concentrate my efforts (and finances!) on games such as Eldritch Horror, which can hit the tabletop without a massive production of getting people together for a game day. I’ve no doubt I’ll get it at some point, but anyway…

The only other thing to really excite me from FFG this past week is the second preview of Gates of Arkham, the next expansion for Elder Sign. Another one of those games that I really enjoy, Gates of Arkham takes the action out of the museum and onto the streets in a move that had some mixed reception from the community initially. However, this seems like a genuinely awesome move, and I’m finding myself really looking forward to this – not every board game expansion can claim that!

Gates of Arkham

Let’s move away from Lovecraftian board games for now – for a change, let’s look at what’s going on in Warhammer! Last weekend, I built up some more Necron Immortals, adding to the two vehicles that were primed and waiting for paint, and the bunch of Lizardmen stuff I’ve still got hanging around unpainted. Yeah. Well, these Immortals are important because it means I now have the minimum army size with which to play a game: namely, a HQ and two units of troops:


Exciting, but I still haven’t managed to do anything with them. I’ve made a start with painting, kinda, but that’s as far as it goes. I’m still waiting for the new Codex, which is now purportedly coming in two weeks. Once that hits, I guess the world’ll be my lobster, but we’ll have to see how that goes.

However, I’ve hit a bit of a wall over the painting. I have over a dozen figures in various stages of painting – and I really dread to think how many I’ve got still in boxes! But I seem to have shuddered to a stop. So yesterday I made a real effort to get somewhere, and managed to put on the base coat for the Immortals’ Necrodermis and pauldrons, nothing too glamorous, but it’s a start I suppose…


Got to start somewhere I suppose.

Despite these painting problems, I feel quite excited by what’s happening now in 40k, I must say! Last night, Shield of Baal: Exterminatus went up for pre-order on the Games Workshop website, and is inexplicably still available at the time I’m writing this! The conclusion to the Shield of Baal campaign, I really sat up and took notice when I came upon this little tidbit in the description:

– an explanation of how the Necrons of Cryptus awoke to lend their aid to the beleaguered world along with the fleet of Anrakyr the Traveller

Oh yes! Anrakyr, in case you’re wondering, is the chap with the Immortals in the picture above, and the first special character I built for the Necron army I’ve been amassing. I kinda like the fluff for this guy – travelling from Tomb World to Tomb World, waking up the slumbering Necrons, and taking a small detachment for his own from among the ranks as his pay.

As well as the campaign supplements, Shield of Baal has also been giving us novels from the Black Library, and today a new short story has gone up as an e-book: Word of the Silent King.

I’m hoping to get round to this later tonight. As I recall, the Silent King (Szarekh, to his friends) was the guy who entered into the pact with the C’tan that bought them immortality at the price of their souls and who, as a penance for getting his people into that mess, willingly died to see the Nectrontyr put into stasis. Though I might have gotten that wrong. Well, anyway, Szarekh strikes me as an interesting chap, as he seems incredibly sympathetic as far as these soulless soldiers go. Perhaps he will be the Necron Lord that is rumoured to accompany the Codex release. Well, we’ll see…

There’s something horrible in the museum…

Elder Sign

Hey everyone!
Given that it’s Halloween week, I want to do another game blog, and what could be better than to take a look at one of the greats! At least, one of my all-time favourites: Elder Sign!

Elder Sign

Another addition to the Cthulhu line-up of games from Fantasy Flight, Elder Sign is a dice game set in the shared universe, where you play an investigator on the trail of the weird goings on in the museum in Arkham.

Elder Sign

The investigators are looking to stop the emergence of the Ancient One by searching the museum for enough Elder Signs to seal him up forever. The investigators perform their search through the museum’s halls, which are represented by the adventure cards…

Elder Sign

These cards have a series of tasks on them that the investigators accomplish by throwing dice, which need to match to the symbols to complete. You can only complete one row of tasks at a time, though you can complete them in any order (unless, as shown on the Lights Out card above, there’s an arrow determining the direction you must complete them). When you get them all on your turn, you’ve completed the adventure and take the card as a trophy, as well as the rewards shown in the bottom-right corner.

Elder Sign

If you don’t match any of the symbols, one die is removed and you try again until you can’t feasibly complete the challenge, whereupon the failure effects on the bottom-left take effect. In addition to Elder Signs, you can gain stuff to help you along the way – common and unique items, spells, and clue tokens. The items most often provide you with ways to get the yellow and red dice into your dice pool, while the spells allow you to lock dice, so that you can keep results for future tasks.

Elder Sign

The adventure cards can also lock dice, however, making it that much more difficult to complete the tasks…

Elder Sign

Some tasks are highlighted in white (or, as in the case on We Need to Find Help above, an area will be highlighted) – this denotes a space where a monster can appear. Monsters generally make the adventure more difficult, by replacing comparatively easy tasks with much more difficult – or costly – ones. You generally want to clear these out as soon as you can, though monsters are often also worth points as trophies, so it is something of a balance…

The game features the area mechanic of the Mythos deck, which is a timer of sorts…

Elder Sign

A new Mythos card is revealed each time the clock reaches midnight, where the top portion of the card takes place immediately, while the bottom portion functions as something of an area effect, such as locking a die as mentioned earlier.

Among the rewards are also Other Worlds, which function in a similar manner to the adventure cards, but the tasks are a little more difficult, with the rewards a little better.

Elder Sign

The whole point of the game, as I said, is to collect enough Elder Sign tokens to seal the Ancient One away forever. Certain effects – particularly Mythos cards and adventure failures – add tokens to the Ancient One’s doom track and, should that track fill up, the Ancient One awakens, triggering the final battle.

Elder Sign

Should it come to this, the Ancient One functions a little like an adventure card in that it has a single task that the investigators must complete – if they do, a doom token is removed, and if the doom track is empty, the final battle is a success! If not, then the Ancient One will attack, as shown on the card.

Unlike its cousin Arkham Horror, you generally don’t want to confront an Ancient One in this game, as they can be particularly tough. One of the mechanics of the game allows an investigator to ‘focus’ a die following a failed task, where he chooses one from the pool to keep for later use: you can’t do this in the final battle. Elder Sign is a co-operative game, and if you fail a task, another investigator can come and assist you: you can’t do this in the final battle, either. (Personally, I feel this is a bit of a silly rule – thematically speaking, of course you’d all be working together to defeat the Ancient One!) Sure, it’s possibly to defeat the Ancient One, but it’s not advisable, and the main point of this game is to prevent the awakening.

Elder Sign

I find this game just so immensely satisfying to play. It scratches my Arkham itch when I can’t face an hour’s set-up time, and I have had a lot of tense and exciting games! A lot of people will tell you the game is easy, but a lot of that depends on the luck of the card draw: if you get adventure cards that don’t give you Elder Signs, but a load of Mythos cards that add doom tokens, then it can pretty quickly become curtains for mankind.

Of course, there is the contentious issue of the Gift Shop. The game comes with a “museum front end” card that shows the other actions you can take on your turn, such as healing, or buying items. Each adventure card, when completed, becomes a trophy with a value – earlier, the Plateau of Leng card, for example, is worth 2 points. For 10 points, you can buy an Elder Sign at the gift shop (that’s some kind of gift shop), meaning you can quite easily go about the game by buying your way through. The Unseen Forces expansion fixes this, but I personally don’t have a problem with house-ruling that Elder Signs must be found and not bought when I’m playing the base game.

This brings me onto the tangent of rules and house rules, though. Arkham Horror is, for me, famous in this respect. The game’s designer Richard Launius (who is also responsible for Elder Sign) has publicly released a set of his personal house rules for his game, a document whose introduction really resonates with me. If you haven’t clicked the link, Launius explains that Arkham Horror is all about the adventure, and not winning and losing, but it’s also about fun. He likens the game to a RPG, where the rules will usually have an element of flux to them for the sake of telling a good story. As a GM myself, I suppose this way of looking at something comes very naturally to me – I’m not going to play a game that constantly whups me, as it won’t be fun.

So why not fudge the rolls? I’m not talking about out-and-out cheating, and as much as it’s not fun to play a game you always lose, it’s also not fun to play a game you know you’ll be winning. Instead, if something happens that is completely unexpected and you’ve almost ruined your game night, then just step back a bit and try again – or better yet, bring out your deus ex machina and let your characters live to tell the tale. What I’m trying to say is, I’m not above suppressing rules here and there if it means a more enjoyable experience for everyone. This doesn’t mean the same thing as making sure everyone wins, though.

Drawing the conversation back to Elder Sign specifically, I don’t think the ability to buy Elder Signs makes this game “too easy”, that the rule is “a flaw”, or anything similar. Some people might find it a real blessing, but if you feel the game is “broken” because of it – leave it out! It’s really very simple.

Anyway, I’ll dismount the soapbox now.

Elder Sign

I really enjoy this game, as I say, and it’s something that I look forward to when I haven’t managed to play it in a while. It’s very strongly tied into the mythos of Arkham Horror, which will you’ll probably know by now is one of my favourites! If you still need convincing just how fun this game can be, why not watch Wil Wheaton and co playing the game?

Anyway, I hope you’re all having an excellent week, and come back soon for more!

Elder Sign