November Retrospective

Hey everybody,
The end of the year is fast approaching, and it’s been really great to have these monthly retrospective blogs to look back on the progress that I’ve made with all manner of projects – hopefully they’ve been as interesting to read as they have been to write!

For November, the pace seems to have been a bit slow, as we slide towards the festive season. I’ve been reading a lot of weird fiction this month, which has shown itself in two blogs covering a variety of stories from contemporaries and followers of HP Lovecraft, before then the man himself popping up last week with The Case of Charles Dexter Ward. I do love a bit of cosmic horror, and I think it’s been good to read some of the more extended mythos stuff this time around. It’s all very uneven, of course, and a lot of these stories could hardly be called masterpieces, though they are fun, which for me is the main thing. I am planning to read more of Lovecraft’s own horror stories over Christmas, of course, so do stay tuned for the traditional Mythos Delvings blog!

Reading so much weird fiction has, of course, gotten me back into playing the LCG. Having kinda planned out a series of games with Trish and Agnes, playing through some of the standalone scenarios, I’ve since pushed this idea to the side in favour of an actual campaign once again: The Innsmouth Conspiracy has well and truly started! I’ve built new decks, for Stella and Zoey, and hope to finish that in the coming week or so. I’ve got next week off work, so fingers crossed I can have more games then, if nothing else!

I have been trying to get somewhere with my painting though, and after a month off in October, I’ve been back to the Genestealer Cults, getting more Neophyte Hybrids painted up alongside an Acolyte Iconward and a Clamavus. These characters weren’t part of my original scheme, so it may mean that I end up not completing the 500-point list by the end of the year – that’s my excuse, and I’m sticking to it! I’m hoping to move onto the truck next, and still have the 5 Hybrid Metamorphs to do something with. So, we’ll see how far we get. But hopefully it’ll be a nice-looking little force, so I’m excited for that!

The Genestealer Cult hasn’t really been languishing for it, but I have moved on a little bit to another little project. After starting to read the third novel in the Grey Knights series, Hammer of Daemons, I’ve obviously moved on to these fellas once again, as it’s now a bit of a tradition for me to see how far I can get with them! I’ve got another 5-man Strike Squad on the table currently, along with a Brother-Captain. My painted Grey Knights are currently somewhere on a par with my painted Genestealer Cultists, in terms of size, so I suppose there’s a nice symmetry there in terms of building up both of the smaller forces. While I did initially think 9th edition might mean a slimming-down of my backlog, both of these armies are quite beautiful, and I really feel that I want to keep them.

My big news for November is that I’ve actually played my first game of Warhammer 40k this year, at last! Lockdowns do get in the way of these things, don’t they? JP and I took the tried-and-tested Chaos Space Marines vs Necrons out for a spin, but as ever, we spent most of the evening talking about all manner of junk and didn’t get much gaming actually done! I’m still not wholly sure about 9th edition, if I’m honest – I think it might be the subject for another blog, but I’m still not entirely in love with it. Which is slightly concerning, because if the recent pattern still holds true, we’ve only got about 18 months left before 10th edition rolls around…

It hasn’t even changed a great deal from 8th edition, really, it’s just the additional stuff in the rules have made it feel like it’s an overly complicated game now. When I sat down with the core rules a while back to try to make sense of them, it really surprised me just how little has actually changed. It certainly isn’t the seismic change from 7th to 8th that I experienced as my first edition change, but there’s something just stopping me from really enjoying it. I think this is probably something to explore in another blog, though. I might have a smaller-scale game with the Genestealer Cult and my mate James’ Black Templars soon, though, so maybe playing with a smaller model count might make things a bit better to understand, etc! Of course, that has its own problems when playing with an older Codex for the Genestealer Cult. Hm.

At any rate, I have been thinking that I would like to get more of my Necrons painted – I do have a lot of Necrons painted, for sure, but I need another ten Immortals, 5 Lychguard and 5 Tomb Blades to be finished before I can say that I’m happy with the force as it is. I’ll then be turning my attention to the stuff that I currently have painted, but which could be done better – some stuff like the Annihilation Barge could do with a bit of work to make it a bit more visually appealing, I think. So, I’d like to try and get the models that I think of as “finished” up to a better standard. Then there’s all manner of other units I need to turn my attention to.

I’m really chuffed to have got my hands on the new set for Warcry, Red Harvest, and have already started to build up some of the models from it. The design team are really knocking it out of the proverbial right now with this stuff, and I am utterly bowled-over by how good this stuff is. I think the terrain is what got me interested in this box, but the actual game content seems to be really great, too. It’s always nice when you get something like this – essentially a box of plastic – and there is a great rule set to go alongside it! My current plans, though, are to build up the new Tarantulos Brood warband, then potentially try them out in some regular games of Warcry with the core set stuff. It might be quite some time before all of that terrain is built, after all!

I have no more plans to attach to any of my hobby things right now, though. I think I just want to concentrate on getting my Genestealer Cultists done, and seeing where I can get to with the Grey Knights and the Necrons. If I can build and/or paint anything else, then that’s a bonus for me! I’m looking forward to making my way fully through the Innsmouth Conspiracy, and will have some more thoughts up here when that is all said and done. Who knows what else the month of December may hold? I do have some time off to look forward to, so there could be many exciting things yet to fill 2021!

The Innsmouth Conspiracy

Hey everybody,
It’s been a long time since I have played through a campaign for the Arkham Horror LCG but, here I am! After a recent look through the stuff that I have for the game, and that quick game with the Curse of the Rougarou standalone scenario, I’d decided to build some decks and go for a proper campaign once again. I had already sleeved up the Stella Clark starter deck, but I’ve swapped out a few of those cards now for a little more bespoke play, and after a quick search online, I thought I’d pair her with Zoey Samaras, as that seemed like an interesting combo. My previous games with a Survivor deck were in the Carcosa campaign, and I don’t think the pair of Survivor/Seeker worked particularly well (despite coming through that campaign really well, I admit!) so I’ve gone for Survivor/Guardian this time. New for me, both decks are made up of pairs of cards as well, rather than the more random mish-mash of card types I like to build! So there ought to be a certain degree of consistency as I play my way through this campaign – but we shall see!

As ever with these types of blogs, I’ll be discussing spoilers for the story, so please beware!

1. The Pit of Despair
This is a very interesting set up for the campaign. The investigator(s) wake up in a tidal tunnel, with some pretty severe memory loss, and realise they need to get out of there before they drown – especially having called out for help and heard fishy growls in the darkness. The game makes use of key tokens, colour-coded, which have no inherent meaning but are placed on locations and claimed when said location is fully explored. When you go to another location, if you’re in possession of a certain key, you’ll be instructed to read a certain flashback from the campaign guide, and note down a recovered memory. Now, it’s very tempting to just try and escape from this tidal hell, but recovery of these memories is actually key (pun somewhat intended), as they will allow you to remove certain tokens from the chaos bag for the rest of the campaign, making things that little bit easier!


I was a big fan, anyway, and I think I can safely say that I made the right choice of campaign with Innsmouth! Stella and Zoey are both pretty terrible at investigating locations though, and it’s only through Stella’s mechanic of gaining extra turns, and buffs following failed skill tests, that we made it through! But blimey – Zoey with a survival knife is brutal…

Campaign Log
I successfully recovered all four memories – the meeting with Thomas Dawson, the battle with a horrifying devil, the decision to stick together, and the encounter with a secret cult. After a short interlude, where Agent Harper helps me to piece all of these things together, 5 VPs are mine, but I can’t spend it yet.

2. The Vanishing of Elina Harper
Five weeks prior, the investigators are recruited by Thomas Dawson to help find Agent Harper, who has gone radio-silent on a job in Innsmouth. We get to the blighted town, and split up to try to find her. What follows is almost Innsmouth Horror but in card form, and it’s a lot of fun! Much like previous times where we’ve gotten to explore Arkham or Dunwich in the card game, I’ve enjoyed seeing sites that I’ve known from the board game. This scenario is very reminiscent of The Midnight Masks from the core set, and even uses some of those encounter cards. We’re trying to find the kidnapper and the hideout where Agent Harper is being held, so go round the town gaining clues, which we use to draw cards from a Leads deck, one of which can go into play (but we can see up to three). So in true detective style, we need to keep track of what we’ve seen to narrow down where she can be – advancing the act deck is done by making an accusation, but if we’re wrong, bad things might happen! We then need to fully investigate the real hideout, and defeat the kidnapper (who gains a health bonus), before we are victorious.

This was a very nice twist on the core set scenario, and one that I enjoyed a great deal. Something that I think worth mentioning about this game is how each subsequent campaign has built on the core set so beautifully, it still feels like the same game, but my goodness, it’s come a long way since the Night of the Zealot!

Campaign Log
So we rescued Elina Harper, and Zoey has taken her into her deck. There is also a Thomas Dawson ally card that could have been claimed, though I don’t know how – I probably did something wrong at an earlier point! I’ve gained three more VPs, and the mission was successful, so I can finally spend that experience! I’ve upgraded Survival Knife and Vicious Blow for Zoey, and Granny Orne for Stella, as well as swapping out her A Test of Will for Sharp Vision. Stella has fast become my go-to clue gatherer, so I think it makes sense to try to bolster that where I can. I’ll also try to help Zoey the same, because I think it would be more effective to have the ability for both of my investigators to be flexible.

So far, then, I think this has been a very strong opening to the campaign. I don’t know where I’m headed, truth be told, but I would imagine there is going to be some sort of confrontation with Dagon (given what I know of the lore) and I would expect the final pack of the campaign to take me to the underwater otherworld of Y’ha-nthlei, but that’s probably getting a bit too meta about it. I don’t know what to expect, though interestingly I didn’t have the same feeling of utter doubt as I did during the Path to Carcosa cycle, where I was wondering just what the right / best choice might have been. It’s not that this is a more prescriptive campaign, or anything, but I think it’s going to be interesting to see how this one plays out as time goes on.

One other point before I sign off – The Innsmouth Conspiracy introduces bless/curse tokens to the game. Finally! It’s a classic mechanic from other Arkham games, and I can only assume they have been at a loss as to how to introduce it in this one because of the lack of dice. Basically, we’re limited to 10 of either token in play at any one time, and various card effects will allow us to add in blessed tokens to the bag, which are worth +2 to the skill test, but do require you to draw again. They aren’t returned to the bag when drawn, so you’ll need to keep playing cards to replenish them. So far, I’ve only encountered player cards that interact with the blessed side of things, but I’ve heard that subsequent scenarios do have more to do with both types of tokens, so it’ll be an interesting ride to see how that all works out.

Arkham Horror LCG musings

Hey everybody,
In the spirit of musing on board games I seem to be in right now, I thought that I’d muse a little on what has very nearly become my favourite living card game in the last twelve months, Arkham Horror LCG! It hasn’t yet tipped Lord of the Rings from the top spot, only because I have such affection for the earlier game, but I’ve had such fun playing this one across three campaigns so far, it’s certainly getting there!

I haven’t played it as often as I would have liked in the last few months, unfortunately, but now that the nights are drawing in (and there’s a reasonable chance that I can get an hour or two, with the kids being more settled!) I am finding myself gaming a bit more once again, so I think it’d be good to get back into this one! I have The Forgotten Age, The Dream-Eaters, and The Innsmouth Conspiracy campaigns all still to play through, with of course The Edge of the Earth campaign coming out sometime soon – I’m getting that last for my birthday/Christmas though, so it’ll be a while before that hits the table.

I had embarked on a campaign idea for playing some of the standalone scenarios, using Trish Scarborough and Agnes Baker after playing through Return to Night of the Zealot, though Agnes’ untimely death kinda put a downer on that one! But I think I’ll try to give it a go soon, maybe bringing her back from the dead to try out the print on demand scenarios if nothing else. However, I’ve got so much stuff for this game now that I haven’t yet played, I really need to get a move on.

Arkham Horror investigators

The five Investigator decks for Arkham Horror LCG have been a bit like gold dust since they were released last year- I guess supply issues are to blame. They’re a mix of new faces and old favourites here, with some very interesting ideas incorporated within each one. Harvey Walters and Jacqueline Fine are of course staples from the Arkham stable, but Stella, Winifred and Nathaniel are all new to the mythos.

Each deck is mono-class, and comes with a full play set of two copies of each card. Several cards are core set staples, so it’s nice to see these included for those players who don’t want to buy a second set. They also have class-specific upgrades for the neutral skill cards from the core set such as Overpower and Manual Dexterity. That was an interesting idea, as these have always felt pretty much at home in some classes, though of course I’m not the only person to use them to shore up weaknesses in other classes, too.

Arkham Horror investigators

Jacqueline Fine is a very interesting deck, to me, as it seems to have one thing that it just leans into: chaos token manipulation. There are the usual spells to use willpower in place of fight, evade and investigate attributes, with the odd bits and bobs to improve the willpower to boot, and then a whole load of different things that will allow her to manipulate the chaos bag. It’s not something that I’ve really thought of a great deal, when playing Mystics in the past I think I’ve always been attracted to other ways of building them, with only a couple of these sorts of cards involved. Mystic is one of my favourite classes though, so I can totally see myself taking this one out for a spin soon!

Arkham Horror investigators

Winifred Habbamock is a Native American with a reckless attitude to the rules. The deck principally seems to be all about passing skill tests with flying colours, and the more cards committed to each test, the more you get to draw. Another interesting thing, I find, as it really seems to drill down into just one of the core principles of the class. There’s a big theme around succeeding by at least 2, which gives the deck some unity, and the usual Rogue tricks to get there. I’m not hugely experienced with the Rogue class, though some of their cards are quite fun and I do feel like it would be interesting to build up a deck around the idea of multiple cards committed to each test. 

Arkham Horror investigators

The only other deck that I’ve really looked at is Stella Clark, the postal carrier. Once per round, you can take an extra turn when you fail a skill test, and the deck is all about interacting with failure at skill tests. Stella is of course of huge import to the mythos for being the first trans character, which has been a huge thing for the game. Survivors are a complicated class to my mind, though, so it’s definitely going to take some time to get into this deck. While playing through the Carcosa cycle last year, I thought I was finally getting to understand the Survivor class a bit, but after effectively a year off, I suppose it’d be like starting again now! Building a deck around losing tests seems like such a risky strategy, though, I’m not sure I’m brave enough for that just yet!

Nathaniel’s deck, god love him, really didn’t inspire me, as it seems to be principally concerned with just combat, so I’ve already sorted those cards into my main supply. I haven’t really looked at Harvey’s deck at all, either, so again I think there’s some homework for me there as I try to make sense of what I have!

The Investigator starter decks are very impressive products though, for coming with a whole deck plan for how to upgrade it over the course of a campaign. Of course, it’s prescriptive, but it does mean you could get one of these decks and shuffle up and play, without the need for deckbuilding – something I know that a lot of people don’t really enjoy. For those of us with huge collections, they offer a nice influx of new cards with which to build different decks. Part of me wants to keep the decks built for now, and give them a try to see how they work, but then part of me thinks why constrain myself like that? I did try Winifred and Stella at the Excelsior Hotel a while back, but whether it was the luck of the draw, or maybe just the pairing, they really didn’t work well like that. I wonder if they’ve been designed to work together to some extent, as part of a 4-player game?

As I said at the top, Arkham Horror LCG has really quickly become one of my all-time favourite games, and I think a large part of that was to do with the fact I was able to play so much of it twelve months ago, working my way through three excellent campaigns. I have such affection for this universe, though, I suppose really it’s no surprise that it would be up there in the top three. Playing these Arkham games can be such an incredibly immersive experience, it’s really rewarding to have a game that has a real campaign attached to it, and that sense of not knowing what to do that I recall from the Path to Carcosa campaign really feeds into that – you feel that you’re really living this game, somehow!

My plan, then, such as it is, will be to play through a couple of those stand-alone scenarios to get myself back into the swing of things, before then getting to another campaign! I’m really drawn to the Innsmouth campaign, now that I’ve finally picked up In Too Deep, though I’m also thinking it would perhaps make some sense to go for The Forgotten Age, as I missed that one out last year. It’s not essential to play them in order, of course, but I think it might be good to do so regardless. I find it difficult to choose because I like all of these settings! Innsmouth, Mesoamerica, Antarctica, they’re all just delightful!

Arkham Horror: Third Edition

Hey everybody,
Today’s game day blog has been a long time coming, let me tell you! Today, I’m finally getting round to talking about the third edition of Arkham Horror! I first played this game in January, and have been meaning to do a first impressions blog pretty much ever since! Having recently returned to board games to some extent, though, I thought now would be a good time to feature this game here. So, without further ado, let’s dive in!

Arkham Horror 3rd edition

The third edition of Arkham Horror came out in 2018, so I’m already late to the party. It’s had a pretty huge makeover since the second edition, as well, no longer having the traditional board that represents the city of Arkham, but rather a series of tiles that are interconnected to form the map for each scenario. This is now most definitely a scenario-driven game, as opposed to the classic “just try to survive” of the earlier version, which I suppose could be boiled down to the same game each time you play it, just with various tweaks and so forth.

Arkham Horror 3rd edition

Third edition is built to give you a new experience each time, through the use of scenarios tied to the Great Old Ones, rather than simply going up against them that we’re used to. The game was redesigned by Nikki Valens, who was also heavily involved (if not responsible for) the ongoing development of Eldritch Horror after the core set, and so there are a number of classic Arkham Files beats coming through loud and clear.

Arkham Horror 3rd edition

Each scenario has got its own win condition, and you don’t always know what you need to do to win. This was a little bit disconcerting to me at first, because I had a bit of AP as I tried to decide what to do with my actions. But then I just embraced it all and it’s actually an incredibly effective and thematic way to go about this type of game! The game uses this idea of the “codex”, a collection of cards placed next to the scenario sheet, which represents the changing objectives throughout the game. So you’re not simply trying to gather clues to throw at the monster, or whatever, and there are both success and failure paths to follow as the story unfolds. It takes some getting used to, but it’s actually really nice and very flavourful when you get into it.

The game is played across 4 Phases. To start with, there’s the action phase, where the investigators get to do their thing. The monster phase comes next, with monsters moving and attacking the investigators. The AI for monsters is somehow slicker than 2nd edition, which was itself quite nicely done. Here, they either move to a specific investigator, or to a specific location, or they just cause chaos by adding doom. Monsters are represented with cards in this edition though, which is a little more tricky to manage on the board than the tokens of 2nd edition or other Arkham games.

Arkham Horror 3rd edition

The encounter phase is next, and this is similar to other iterations where you draw a card and have a short adventure, usually involving a skill test of some sort. Some encounters have been seeded into the deck by the scenario, and will allow you to further the investigation with clues. The last phase is the mythos phase, where players draw a token from the mythos cup, and resolve its effect. These can spawn clues to spawn monsters, resolve the reckoning effects of cards in play, or resolving a headline – a new type of card that kind of acts a little like mythos cards of old. The tokens are interesting because there are also blank ones, which add an element of surprise, but you also don’t throw them back into the bag after drawing them until all have been drawn, so you can get an idea for how good or bad a mythos phase is going to be, based on what has already come out.

At its core, third edition is very much a blend of second edition and Eldritch Horror, with some new or streamlined elements that make it feel very much like a new game. While I’ve been happy to play and replay second edition many times, I think third edition has an increased replayability simply from the scenario aspect. The Codex is a very interesting idea as well, as it contains a bunch of numbered cards that are added in as determined by how the game is going, but are used in varying ways across the scenarios, allowing for some interesting gameplay as time goes on.

Arkham Horror 3rd edition

Gates don’t really exist in this edition – instead we have Anomalies, which don’t appear in every scenario, but are functionally the same as Gates of old. You can enter an Anomaly and have an encounter, which might help to seal it, or you can attempt to Ward Doom to prevent one opening in the first place. An interesting addition is the Remnant token, which some monsters leave behind when you defeat them, or from removing multiple Doom tokens with a Ward Doom action. They can later be spent for profit or to help with casting spells, which I find super thematic!

Third edition is a very different, very interesting game that I think definitely needs a lot more exploration to see what it has to offer. I find it a very interesting amalgamation, between Eldritch Horror and Arkham Horror second edition. There are also elements from the card game present, in terms of how the game is strongly tied towards the scenario, and being a big fan of that game it is very nice to see.

I do like second edition, and the opportunity that it has for telling your own stories. I do love Eldritch Horror, and the global scale of adventure and exploration that it gives us. I also love the card game, as has been well-chronicled here on this blog over the last twelve months! This third edition doesn’t have anything that I could say really detracts from it, in my view. It’s a solid addition to the game line, pulling elements from across several other games to make something very thematic from the previous version.

So far, we’ve had two small box expansions, and one big-box, coming at a rate of one per year. So we’re seeing a fairly steady stream, but nothing that seems to be difficult to keep up with. In a new move for me, I’ve not bought into any of these yet, although I have been eyeing up the most recent one, Secrets of the Order, as I love anything to do with the Order of the Silver Twilight! It will be interesting to see how these expansions integrate into the base game, in the fullness of time of course! For now, I definitely need to try and play the core set some more, even if I just play each of the four scenarios once! 

Gen Con 2021

This one surprised me a little, I must be honest, but GenCon is being held in September this year? I always thought it was an August thing, but what do I know? The best four days in gaming must be a bit strange this year, although the main thing is that it’s back!

Let’s start with Fantasy Flight, whose In-Flight Report used to be the highlight of the weekend for me. Remember the days when they’d announce something spectacular, like Android Netrunner, and then they’d have limited stock to purchase during the convention? Here in 2021, it feels distinctly lacklustre, somehow, like there isn’t a great deal to be excited about. For sure, we have the long-awaited expansion for Outer Rim, which I know fans of that game will be excited by (I can’t believe I haven’t yet looked into that one, but then I guess my priorities have shifted lately!) There are a few games, like Keyforge and Marvel Champions, which I don’t play, so the only thing for me to come out of this announcement was the revised/consolidated Lord of the Rings LCG core set that is due, which will support 4 players out of the gate, and the promise of re-packaging complete cycles in a similar fashion to Arkham Horror LCG. And speaking of that game, they’ve also announced that they’ll be re-packaging earlier cycles to support collectors who have only now got into the game, starting with The Dunwich Legacy.

I thought it was interesting, though, reading some of the comments on FFG’s own facebook post about this, and seeing my own thoughts echoed. I used to be such a fanboy for FFG, but it seems that since they sold to Asmodee (well, for me I think the death-knell was the loss of the Warhammer licence) they’ve lost a lot of the creativity that I used to love. I mean, I used to go through their catalogue and just buy stuff to try it, on the basis that the company was top-notch. Now, I’m pretty much only buying Arkham games, and even then I’m not buying them all… But anyway, enough introspection!

Games Workshop are also at GenCon, and have announced a lot of interesting Kill Team stuff! The new warzone box, Chalnath, is due for release at some point, and does indeed feature T’au vs Sisters of Battle. The T’au Pathfinders kit will have an upgrade sprue, while the Sisters are a new unit, designed specifically for Kill Team. This is pretty much what has been speculated, and the fact that a new Sisters kit is coming out that looks so varied and stuff I think is proof that they want the Kill Team range to be its own thing. Of course, I imagine there will be 40k rules to follow, but it’s exciting. Pathfinders are a pretty full kit anyway, so adding in an upgrade sprue is a move that I can entirely understand – there are maybe only a handful of kits they can do this with, but it does make sense, rather than producing new kits all the time. The scenery is that from the first Kill Team box in 2018, so I’m thinking I might forego this one, in the hope that I can get the campaign book as well as the new miniatures separately. Otherwise, I could see myself with a second set of Sector Imperialis terrain!!

The new Sisters models do look very interesting though, and I like the idea of having a very customisable, essentially Sisters Scouts squad.

An actual Kill Team starter set is also due for release, as well as the Kommandos and Death Korps models coming out separately. This box won’t have the big buildings, just the barricades etc, but I think that’s a great idea because launching a new system with a limited edition box really does irritate me. At least now it looks like something that people can be excited for, rather than disappointed by.

We’ve also got our first look at Season Five of Warhammer Underworlds: Harrowdeep. This one sounds pretty good, and comes with the expected Stormcast vs Kruleboyz, so I’m excited for this one. I’m also wondering at what kinds of warbands we’ll see as the season gets underway – though I still haven’t picked up a couple of the s4 warbands that I’ve had my eye on… I need to get on that…

Well, the Necromunda news didn’t disappoint! This was unexpected, Outcasts are the new gang, coming with their own book that promises to be something of a treasure trove of Underhive junk that I for one cannot wait to see. The minis look like a great bunch of generic gangers, a nice addition of general 40k humans that, up to now, we’ve only had Cultists to represent. And the terrain is just astonishing! Who knew we needed a market stall like this?! I’m looking forward to getting to grips with these bits and pieces, should be great to fill out a more open area on the table without it feeling too crowded. Interesting stuff, at any rate – and I’m particularly pleased that all of this is coming out separately, it seems, and not tied into a big-box release. I’m already saving for the new Kill Team, after all!

I’m not all that impressed with the big Warcry announcement though, mainly because it wasn’t really an announcement but just a tease. Hm. I’m guessing some kind of drider-like creatures, new stuff for the setting as a whole rather than simply Spiderfang Grots, because otherwise why make such a fuss? Hm.

The Changing Mythos

Well, folks, it’s perhaps the big news we’ve all been waiting / hoping for – the release model for Arkham Horror LCG is changing! And it’s quite the dramatic shift, really!

The next expansion has been announced, and we are indeed going to Antarctica – and it even looks like we will indeed be going to the Mountains of Madness. Elder Things, ahoy! I was really coming around to the idea of an Alaska-themed Ithaqua expansion, but this is just as good!

But this isn’t the important bit.

For years now, Living Card Games from FFG have followed the schedule of a big deluxe expansion, and a cycle of six smaller packs, for the co-operative games both products had a mix of player and scenario cards. Now, though, this mix is being divided in two, and the whole scheme is being schmushed together, so that we have an entire cycle’s worth (more or less) of content, split across two boxes.

I guess this means that we’ll see just one expansion each year, though it’s such early days who knows what else we might have in store as time goes on?

The benefits here seem to be that the player cards are dropped in one hit, so you have an almost instant collection to build decks from, to plan decks from, etc. The scenario box also means that individual scenarios can be much longer, and the interplay between them can, presumably, be much tighter. I mean, who’s to say we’ll still get eight individual quests to play? We might only have five, but they’re that much more diverse because they aren’t bound by the constraints of fitting into a mythos pack.

In the middle of all this new stuff, it’s nice to know that we’re still getting new investigators, and they’re still drawing from the classic Arkham stable. Lily Chen is a fan favourite that I know has been on many players’ minds for some time. We have also seen Norman Withers, so we’re not going too far off piste just yet. Daniela Reyes can also be seen on the cover of the box, though I’m not sure who the other two are.

Overall, a very exciting game development, making it feel much less like a living card game of old, and much more like a boxed card game with a big box expansion; which I guess the co-op LCGs were all along. It’s only now that we’re seeing them this way!

Return to Night of the Zealot

Hey everybody,
Today is game day, and it’s time to return to the one that started it all – it’s time to Return to Night of the Zealot. Published back in 2018, the box is a bit like the principle of the Nightmare decks for Lord of the Rings LCG, adding more depth and complexity to the game rather than simply making things more difficult. As well as the new cards to swap into the existing encounters, we get new player cards – upgrades to several of the staples from the core set, which is very nice.

Return to Night of the Zealot

The main story though is all about the changes to the scenarios that this box brings. The core set scenarios are, almost by definition, fairly basic, as they are designed to take us through the learning process for the game. We don’t get anything like as complicated as some of those in Path to Carcosa or The Circle Undone, because the Night of the Zealot campaign is designed to teach us how the game works. Return to Night of the Zealot therefore has the great opportunity to actually make something out of the box.

Return to Night of the Zealot

Return to The Gathering is probably the most-changed in this regard. This is the tutorial scenario, of course, and it is probably the most-played scenario out there, seeing as how it’s the starting point for us all! Things are subtly different, however, as we start off on a different path out of the study and find ourselves in a whole different house, it seems! There’s a definite change to the way the game plays, this time around – it feels different enough that I have to say it really stands out for me as a cracking way to implement this type of expansion.

Return to Night of the Zealot

The familiar story beats are all there, of course – the Ghoul Priest, the rats, all the rest of it. The only changes here for me are that I didn’t seem to end up getting the assistance of Lita Chandler, and for what I think was the first time in the many games with this scenario, I decided not to burn the house down!

Return to Night of the Zealot

Return to The Midnight Masks has much more subtle differences, with some alternate locations as well as alternative cultists for us to interrogate. There is also a whole different cultist deck to shuffle into the encounter deck. These new cultists are part of the Devourer’s Cult, which not only have doom added to them when they enter play, but can also steal clues to slow us down. Again, it’s not so much about making things difficult, but rather adding a new depth to the scenario.

Return to Night of the Zealot

Something that I particularly like about the expansion is the addition of achievements to tick off, as we attempt to play the scenarios and accomplish set goals. It’s a very simplistic way to add replayability to the game, for sure, but even so, it’s interesting as we attempt to explore the entire city of Arkham in this one, or interrogate all six cultists. Not entirely sure how that last could possibly happen, without some serious attempts to remove doom and stop the implacable advance, but anyway!

Return to Night of the Zealot

The Devourer Below is probably the closest to a “regular” scenario of the three from the core set, and the Return to The Devourer Below is perhaps the least-changed of the trio. We have a card that increases the health of Umôrdhoth (just what it needed!) and we have some different Ghouls, but that’s really where the additions end. It still plays quite difficult, and I am still left gobsmacked by how many close calls I end up with during it! Having just managed to collect enough clues to advance the final Act, doom picks up and the Agenda advances to 3b, where the Great Old One wakes up and we need to kill it. With no Lita Chandler to throw into the gaping maw of the beast, I was left to actually fight the thing, which was hardly easy! Agnes ended up dying, and with the last shreds of her sanity fraying, Trish used a Backstab to do the final points of damage.

Return to Night of the Zealot

What a victory!

This is a great design for an expansion, and one that I really enjoyed finally getting to play with after having had it all these years! For almost three years, I’ve had this thing principally for the fact that it’s a storage box, with some nice player cards that are useful across the board of course.

The biggest thing is naturally the new scenario cards that change things up. A couple of encounter sets are completely swapped out, otherwise each scenario has just a few tweaks with maybe two encounter cards added into the deck. And yet, these scenarios play out much more interestingly, for the most part.

I think a lot of people are down on this expansion in particular because the price point is the same as each subsequent Return To box, and yet the content is much lighter because there are only three scenarios involved, and not a full eight. If nothing else, the additional space in this box is useful for storing the tokens and some standalone scenarios. I definitely am a fan, at any rate!

The Circle Undone – looking for doom!

Hey everybody,
I’ve faced the doom of the world, and to some extent, I’ve survived! Let’s take a look into the final scenarios of The Circle Undone campaign.

Now, last time I sided with the Lodge, and I “won” when Carl Sandford managed to bind the spirit of Keziah Mason into his little black book. Oh dear! The campaign was over for me, and the Silver Twilight would begin their true work. Oh dear, oh dear! So I shuffled up and replayed the scenario and decided to side with the witches, whereupon the revenant spirit of Keziah Mason possessed Anette Mason, and turned her evil. Oh dear! At any rate, Valentino is alive, but the remaining three characters from the prologue are now dead – this campaign is going really well, wouldn’t you say?!

 

So I am now In the Clutches of Chaos. Scenario seven brings us back full circle (there’s a pun there, somewhere) to the fortune-teller Anna Kaslow, and the streets of Arkham. The clouds above are not natural. Phantasmal shapes shift and churn within the mist above. The scenario is really pregnant with foreboding, and then it begins. The set-up here is so familiar to me as a fan of Arkham Horror the board game, as we have many of the locations from the original board – but it gets better! The unique thing with this scenario is the breaches and incursions special rule – breaches (represented by resource tokens) are opening across the city, and if a fourth token would ever be placed on a location, instead an incursion takes place, and a doom token is placed on it instead.

Doom isn’t added to the agenda as normal, but instead we have (investigators) +1 breach tokens placed in random locations. In addition, almost all locations have no clue tokens added to them when they’re revealed – instead, by clearing breaches we have the opportunity to add clues to a random location. It’s all very random, and it feels incredibly like the board game, where we’re trying to close gates before we reach the gate limit. It was really nice!

 

The scenario concludes when the possessed Anette Mason is defeated – which I managed to do quite cinematically, with Joe Diamond softening her up before Diana Stanley finished her off with the Twilight dagger. Wonderful! In the fourth Interlude of the cycle, we come to realise that everything we’ve been doing has almost been a distraction from the massive breach that has been in the sky this entire time, engulfing the stars. Oh dear, oh dear!

At this point, we’re pretty much resigned to our fate, and when a group of nightgaunts come down from the sky, we mount up and fly into the void, in a desperate gambit to try and push back the chaos!

 

Before the Black Throne is almost a spoiler in itself, isn’t it – clearly we’re going to go up against Azathoth in some description. In every other Lovecraft game we’ve got, Azathoth is always the end – it wakes up and destroys the world. How would that be implemented in the card game?

As is now the pattern for this game, the cycle ends with a trip into an Other World – this time, we’re into the Cosmos, the Void. The implementation is quite nice, though, using the top cards from the investigator decks to provide “empty space” that we have to cross, replacing them with Cosmos cards where possible. It’s not a straightforward trip from A to B, however, and we don’t have a map – we need to try to find the way, which isn’t as straightforward as all that. These Cosmos cards can only be placed in specific locations relative to where we currently are – it sounds very regimented, but it’s actually a really great way to implement that flailing in the unknown.

 

Of course, there are anchor points in the void, and we’re trying to get from one to another at each turn of the Act deck. It’s also really nice how all of the investigators need to make it to the same point before the Act can advance, or else they will be killed.

Azathoth is present right from the beginning, and cannot be influenced by player cards in any way. We cannot fight him, but we can be attacked, by it, and many treachery cards can cause that. It looms over the whole scenario, and it feels almost insurmountable right from the start as a result.

Something that I found really interesting about the finale here is that it isn’t over when the Agenda runs out. I was all for making a suicidal attempt, and both of my investigators were only 1 or 2 points of damage away from death anyway, but no! Things carry on, and any doom that would be placed on the Agenda is instead placed on Azathoth (who has been collecting doom throughout, I hasten to add!)

To finally advance to victory, we need to find the Black Throne, and remove all of the clue tokens on there. Its shroud value is potentially huge, as it is linked to how much doom Azathoth has collected, but in no small part thanks to the Seeker shenanigans of Joe Diamond, I was able to actually clear all of the clues and – with a lot of luck – win!

I mean, I call it victory – Joe is now insane, and has joined the immortal Pipers of Azathoth forever. But, for now, Azathoth slumbers…

 


What an absolutely fantastic cycle The Circle Undone is!

From the almost inauspicious beginnings when we’re at the Meiger Estate and we’re not sure what’s going on, through the strange investigations into both the witch coven of Anette Mason and the Silver Twilight Lodge themselves, this cycle has got so many twists and turns, it feels like an absolute labyrinth. The designers stated that they crafted a tale that pitted the all-male Lodge against the all-female coven, resulting along the way with the theme of good vs evil (though which side is which is, of course, a matter of perspective). Given the nature of this conflict, the choice of Azathoth being the Ancient One at the end was almost inevitable, as that particular god has no motive beyond wholesale destruction.

It all works together really quite well, but that is not to say that the cycle is without its flaws. I’ve said previously that the storyline feels very much like it is pulling us along, and regardless of what happens during each game, there is a sense, at times, that there is stuff in-between games that will place us on the right track, regardless. This wasn’t quite so obvious in either Dunwich or, particularly, Carcosa, and it did distract me at times, I can’t deny.

But that’s not to say that The Circle Undone is a bad campaign. Quite the opposite, in fact. The atmosphere of gothic horror is palpable, and the theme really drips off in great clots. I love that this cycle explores the witchcraft side of Lovecraft’s writings, albeit tying in with the cosmic horror represented by the blind idiot god at the end. There can sometimes be a weird feeling when you manage to shoot a Great Old One, but here we have no chance to actually fight Azathoth, and that’s something I really love! Instead, we’ve just got to try and survive so that the story can end a different way.

I also adored the way we get to explore Arkham as a town here. Sure, we’ve had glimpses in the earlier cycles, when we’ve been at the Historical Society or the Miskatonic Museum, but this cycle really strives to bring us back to the town as a place that, if we’ve played the board game, we’ll be intimately familiar with. We get to run around the different locations much like we do in the board game, and it feels absolutely delightful! I really haven’t had so much joy from the game as when I’m getting to play with stuff like this, so I heartily commend the designers for that.

Overall, it’s not without its flaws, but I think the final impression of The Circle Undone as a campaign is that it is one of the best out there. I am definitely playing this one again at some point, and I imagine the games will feel quite different in choosing different paths from the start.

The Circle Undone – looking for cultists

Hey everybody,

There’s no stopping me now, as I plunge ahead with my Circle Undone campaign! I’ve said this so often during my blogs so far, but I’ve really enjoyed myself with this cycle. The witch/cultist theme is utterly incredible, and I think being set firmly in Arkham has been a real boost, too. Don’t get me wrong, I have enjoyed my jaunts into Dunwich and across the Atlantic, but here we’ve got almost the sense of exploring the old board game, and I love it!!

As always with these blogs, spoilers for the scenario will follow!

For the Greater Good sees us rummaging around the Silver Twilight Lodge in search of answers to what is going on. As enemies of the Lodge, my investigators were creeping around trying to avoid alerting anyone to their presence, and it does somehow feel like that’s exactly what we’re doing when playing this one! I’m sure I was trying to breathe quietly, just in case!

As we’ve seen in a number of scenarios now, this one has something of an unfolding map as we investigate further into the Lodge, moving through rooms in our search for clues. It’s not just clues that we’re after though – this scenario uses chaos tokens to represent “keys”, which we’re trying to locate for an unspecified purpose. I assumed it would be something to open the door to the Inner Sanctum but, while some locations are indeed barred to you unless you have a specific key, their purpose is instead linked to a puzzle box that is in the possession of Nathan Wick, a senior member of the Lodge.

The objective here is to get the box and the keys, but the way that the scenario unfolds, all of this feels like it happens quite beautifully and natural. An interesting point to this, the box had no other function in this scenario other than being the McGuffin, which I thought was an interesting point!

The encounter cards are quite an interesting mix, with a few that hate on the investigators for collecting keys (poor Joe was almost driven insane by being the one collecting all four), but otherwise it wasn’t what I’d call a particularly difficult scenario to handle. That said, I’d finally taken the time prior to playing to tune up my decks with some of the 15 experience points I’d earned so far, so maybe that helped!

Things are getting real in the fourth pack, Union and Disillusion, as we follow the Lodge to the Unvisited Isle in an attempt to either help or hinder the ritual. From the start, the atmosphere is laden with dread, as the set-up tells us to decide if we’re with or against the Order. Sheesh!

The Unvisited Isle is yet another classic location of course – and as with each time such a location turns up, we get to really run around and explore things, learning more about the place than we ever did from the board game!

So we’re running around the island, either lighting braziers (if we’re with the Order) or extinguishing them (if we’re with the witches), and there are several callbacks along the way to earlier scenarios, such as being forced to split up at one point. The scenario pack encounter set even includes several cards from the whippoorwill encounter set, calling back Dunwich! The brazier mechanic is quite interesting, involving a combined skill test, for instance you might need to test strength and agility (10) to complete it. Compound skill tests are fairly exciting, if I’m honest, and I’m surprised it has taken this long for the designers to implement them!

Everything kicks off when the Spectral Watcher shows up and starts to make his menacing way towards us. A new location, the Geist Trap, is put into play, and the objective is to defeat the Watcher while there – are you getting Ghostbusters vibes? Good. In a lucky twist, I’d managed to get myself fairly tooled-up so that everything was in place: a brazier must be lit, at a combined skill check of 20, so I’d drawn enough cards that I could comfortably over-commit and make sure the only thing I needed to do was to defeat the blighter!

The ending is a bit weird on this one, if I’m perfectly honest. Having decided to throw in my lot with the Order, I made some story choices along the way that have led to me seemingly dooming the world! The final resolution reads: The true work of the Silver Twilight Lodge has now begun. The Silver Twilight Lodge wins the campaign.

What?! There are still two packs left in the cycle! Well, it seems that I may have miscalculated…

I’m probably going to re-play this one and try siding with the witches to see how that works out for me.

The Circle Undone – looking for witches

Hey everybody,

It’s time to continue my journey into witchcraft and the spooky goings-on around Arkham, as I make a proper start on The Circle Undone campaign, just when FFG have announced the Return To box will be coming out this summer! Very exciting stuff there – including a full Tarot deck to add even more craziness. I’m very much looking forward to having that when it is released, I must say. For now, though, let’s start on The Secret Name

Okay, so things are getting really interesting here! The setup for this scenario is something else, and covers two full pages of text as the possibilities are laid before you. I said last time that this campaign felt a little like it was trying to lead us more by the nose, and that feels true here still, although not necessarily in a bad way. It definitely feels like there is a lot of story that the designers are trying to get through, and maybe splitting it up into eight separate scenarios was never going to be enough…

From the mouth of no less a person than Carl Sandford, head of the Order of the Silver Twilight, we learn of the presence of a coven of witches in Arkham, and the Order is looking into the strange happenings going on in the town. The event at Josef Meiger’s estate was intended to study the strange mist going round, and see if there is anything they can learn from it. Pursuit of this knowledge leads us to Keziah Mason at the Witch House, which of course long-term Arkham fans will know only too well! 

The story of this pack is truly wonderful, even with all of its nuts and bolts sometimes getting in the way. We start off with the prosaic halls of the Witch House, and when able to we burst through Walter Gilman’s Room into a realm of horror and witchcraft that, I don’t mind telling you, was just truly fantastic! I mean, we’ve had story elements like this before, when exploring Mont St Michel during the Carcosa storyline, but somehow here it’s done much better. The locations spin out into other worlds, or other times, and it all feels like some fantastical type of fever-dream, very fitting for what is precisely going on here.

The pack is perhaps infamous for the delightful little critter Brown Jenkin, a super-rat who just keeps coming back time and again! Keziah’s familiar, he is nothing to the horrors of Nahab, a sort of super-witch-ghost who can never be killed, merely exhausted… The enemies are quite annoying, for sure, but even that has some really great elements where it all just feels so, I don’t know, real. The scenario culminates in a ritual where we try to banish this unwelcome spirit, returning to the ruined house from the otherworlds. Cracking stuff!

The Wages of Sin

Comparatively speaking, The Wages of Sin is a much more laid back scenario. We’re off to the graveyard at the dead of night, because of course we are! The locations are double-sided again, with the real world face up to start with, then the spectral world on the reverse. We also have two encounter decks here, a real world deck and a spectral deck, to be drawn from depending on which type of location we’re at.

To start with, we’re just gathering clues to track down the coven, and everything proceeds much as normal. Then the agenda advances, and all hell breaks loose when a number of Heretic cards are put into play. The objective is to banish these guys, but there are so many caveats on them that doing so can prove to be tricky, to say the least! Added in here, we have what has already become my most-hated encounter set in the game so far, The Spectral Watcher.

Each of the Heretics is a story card, so there is some text on the reverse, much as we have seen with cards in the Carcosa cycle. Each has different ways of banishing it, detailed on the back of the card – when the Heretic is defeated, the card is flipped over, and oftentimes you’ll discover what you then need to do to actually banish that Heretic forever, before then having to flip it back to deal with again! However, the clues that we’ve been gathering over the course of the cycle so far can provide us with Spectral Web asset cards, which function much like the Powder of Ibn-Ghazi in the Dunwich Legacy cycle, giving us that fighting chance to deal with these Heretics.

This is the first time that I have ever Resigned from a scenario out of sheer hopelessness. I did misunderstand the text on one of the Heretics, so I probably didn’t need to, but I definitely felt like this game beat me down on this one! Pretty much every Arkham Horror LCG scenario is tough, but this one – considering, like I said at the beginning, it’s a more laid-back scenario than The Secret Name – really is difficult to deal with, all the same! Luckily, the fail-forward mechanic employed by the game means that it never really matters whether you complete the scenario properly, or if you win or lose. Something will happen to put you back on the right path for the next pack, even if you resign at the earliest opportunity and made no attempt to fulfil the objective. 

I’ve said it before, and I’ll no doubt keep saying it, but I really love the feel of this cycle! Covens of witches with veiled agendas, snooping around graveyards and dealing with the tormented spirits of long-dead heretics, it’s all just fantastic! Lovecraft was of course all about the spooky and the weird, not necessarily all cosmic horror, and I think it’s really nice to get this aspect of his work discovered in the game. Silver Twilight has always been a bit hit with me, going back to the original Call of Cthulhu days, as well. So that’s a big plus for me! 

All in all, I’m really enjoying myself, although I haven’t spent a single point of experience yet, so I need to get moving forward with updating my decks before moving on to the next scenario.