May 2023 retrospective

Hey everybody,
May seems to have been a pretty long month, in some respects. It’s been very productive, though, so I’m not complaining or anything, but wow! It seems like an age since I was writing my April retrospective!

I’ve been fairly busy with painting miniatures, which is of course to be expected, although somewhere in the middle of the month I think my attention began to wane a bit, and I was more focused on other games than the miniatures stuff. Surprising really, because I have had two games of 40k in May! I’ve really gotten back into the Tyranids, with both of the games I played being with the bugs, and I must say, it was great. Tyranids have been an army that I have definitely waxed and waned on like no other, but there’s always something that has kept me from just selling them all off. I’ve talked about this ages ago, though, where Tyranids were almost my first 40k army, so I suppose there’s always going to be that side of things going on as well.

I’ve started to get more of my Sisters of Battle painted as well, getting the Exorcist tank finished, and also finally getting the last few minis from the launch box painted up as well. That felt really nice, I have to say, getting them finished more than 3 years after they first came out! In my defence, I have had two children in this timeframe… Sisters have been the biggest focus, I suppose, despite playing games with Tyranids. I’ve still got some work to do on the Novitiates that have been started, of course, but these were very much casualties of my attention shifting more towards boardgames in the middle of the month.

I’m doing pretty well to clear out the backlog, though. Last August, I undertook a bit of a hobby audit to see how much stuff I still had to contend with, so I think I’ll try to do something similar this summer as well, to try to get to grips with what I am working with/towards. While I am actively trying to reduce the backlog, there’s no denying that there have been some additions since I last did that stock-take.

Over the last bank holiday weekend, I’ve cleared out a load of room in the attic, and have consolidated all of my hobby stuff there. This has allowed me to see exactly what I have still do deal with, which in turn has prompted me to get a few bits and pieces onto ebay in an attempt to clear out once more. However, getting everything together has turned my attention to Warcry, which is a great skirmish game that I had taken my eye from during it’s second iteration in the realm of beasts. I have so much stuff that I haven’t yet painted (or even built, actually) that I don’t suppose I need to be supplementing my collection with any of that stuff, but after looking into it all a bit more closely, I have had the imagination fired up! I’m currently working on painting up the Darkoath warband from Red Harvest, anyway, and hopefully will continue to paint up models for the game as the year plods on.

Elder Sign

However, like I said, boardgames seem to have taken centre stage for me for a while now, and I’ve surprised myself by playing quite a lot over the course of May! Part of the reason for this is how much Arkham Horror LCG has been played, as I have almost played through two full campaigns this month. Innsmouth in particular was quick, with half of the scenarios being played in a single day. I have well and truly hit my 10 plays for Arkham Horror LCG, at any rate, and have really bumped up my Elder Sign stats, too! I’ve really enjoyed that one, in particular getting to spend more time with the Gates of Arkham expansion, as it has allowed me to experience more of the box in a way that, up to this point, I just haven’t been doing. This is really the point of the 10×10 challenge, I suppose, to play a game more often. While a game like Elder Sign has seen a lot of play in total, the expansions have barely been touched overall – same is true for a lot of other stuff, though I’m thinking in particular about Eldritch Horror as well. I suppose it makes sense, the base game would get the most play because it’s out first, plus you play it more while learning the game, etc. However, Gates of Arkham had only been played twice since it came out in 2015, so this month alone has seen me exceed my all-time record by playing it 3 times, but these numbers are still surprisingly low. I think, if I were to do another 10×10 challenge next year, I would potentially tweak things to include expansions. It’s not just a numbers game, though, as I really enjoy seeing what stuff like Gates of Arkham has to offer. I can remember playing a lot of Eldritch Horror at the tail end of 2022, and while the base game has seen numerous games, the expansions have only hit the table 2 or 3 times, each. It would be good, I think, to try and play with those some more. It has been a bit like discovering these games all over again, and I’m really enjoying myself!


Of the 10×10 challenge, I have crossed the halfway point already, with 54 of the total 100 games being played. Three of the ten chosen games have also had all ten of their iterations played. Of course, it’s not all about trying to play games to bump the numbers up. I’ve still playing a fair bit of Marvel Champions, but I definitely seem to be on a bit of an Arkham Files kick at the minute, with all the Elder Sign and Arkham Horror LCG being played. Surprisingly, though, I haven’t played Eldritch Horror once in 2023, so I think it might be time to right that particular wrong soon enough!

That’s pretty much it, though, I think! A busy month for painting and for gaming, but otherwise quite sedate. I’ve been reading Thomas Mann’s The Magic Mountain for the most part, which has been pretty dull at times – while I was on leave last week, I’d put it aside in favour of starting on the third Shira Calpurnia book, Blind, along with Dave from wordaholicsanonymous. That book has been great, and I’m hoping to finish soon enough so that I can get some thoughts written up here, before returning to the Swiss sanatorium…

The Innsmouth Conspiracy

Back in 2021, I attempted the Innsmouth Conspiracy campaign for Arkham Horror LCG, using Zoey Samaras and Stella Clark, and it didn’t really go very well for me. Indeed, it often felt like a bit of a slog, I seem to recall, possibly due to the fact I didn’t have very good clue-gathering between the pairing of investigators. In the sixth scenario, both the investigators actually were eliminated and so I never got round to the final two scenarios in the campaign. However, after I had concluded my Dunwich Legacy campaign recently, I decided to build two new investigators and move along from there, using Zoey once again but paired this time with Finn Edwards.

Arkham Horror LCG

I was intrigued quite a lot by Finn and his design, so was keen to see how he would work in the campaign. Once I had decided on Finn and Innsmouth, I had been looking at the old Innsmouth Horror board game for some inspiration, and discovered that both he and Zoey were investigators that came in that box, so went forth and built the decks. I have talked briefly about this in my recent Deck Progression blog, but I approached this campaign very differently to how I have previously. I tried to have some idea for where I wanted to take these decks over the course of the game, with a shortlist of cards that I wanted to add in once I had the experience necessary to pay for them. Doing so led me to come up with a sort of archetype for each investigator, so Zoey was the “holy warrior” who would have a focus on the blessed tokens that came in Innsmouth, and was building up to having the Holy Spear weapon in her deck. Even though that could have been bought quite early on, as a level 5 card, I wanted to wait for her to progress more through the game, and only included it towards the end.

Arkham Horror LCG

Unfortunately, I hadn’t accounted for the fact that this campaign plays a bit with progression, and you can only spend the accumulated experience at designated points (normally after every other scenario). So my plans were foiled a bit there! I was still able to upgrade cards, of course, and I made a conscious effort to do so wherever possible, trying to spend as much of my experience as required to make the best decisions, but I think the fact that I couldn’t upgrade in smaller steps did kinda mess with my plans a bit. 

Finn is an interesting investigator, as he is a Rogue who can only level up in his class to level 3, however he can have up to level 5 in Illicit cards, which can potentially be from any class. Now, there are actually very few Illicit cards outside of the Rogue class, so I suppose the point is moot, but it does prevent some very useful higher-level Rogue cards from being included in your deck. That caused me a bit of consternation at first, however the amount of experience earned throughout the campaign afforded me the opportunity to use quite a breadth of cards, instead. So rather than having a fairly narrow focus of card upgrades from 1 through 5, instead I was freely swapping in and out comparatively lower-level cards more often, and there wasn’t as much pressure, it seemed, to make the “right” choice for the deck. He became quite an experimental build, and I definitely enjoyed playing him as the campaign went on.

Arkham Horror LCG

The Innsmouth Conspiracy is, unsurprisingly, set in Innsmouth, and seems to take place around the same time as Lovecraft’s story. The Feds haven’t been in to see what is going on, but instead we follow Elina Harper, a member of The Agency (callbacks to Call of Cthulhu LCG here!) who is having a look into the town. Turns out, the Esoteric Order of Dagon is trying to flood the eastern seaboard and claim the world for Father Dagon (and Mother Hydra, while they’re at it). It’s all a bit of a jumble though, because an amnesia plotline is used, with scenarios following two separate timelines at first, while we try to recover our memories. So the first scenario sees us waking up in a strange cave, and we need to try to escape before the caves flood. The second scenario takes place weeks earlier, and on it goes. I have to admit, even playing it very close together so as to try to better understand what is going on, it isn’t always clear what I’m trying to do. I think the design was perhaps trying to emulate the previous Dream-Eaters situation, by having two storylines taking place, but because the same investigators are doing both storylines here, we end up with odd situations like recovering some relics but then removing them from our decks because the next scenario takes place before the scenario where we recovered them, and allies come and go from our decks, causing chaos and headaches along the way.

The storyline also feels a lot like bad fanfiction, unfortunately. It tries to entwine itself so closely in with Lovecraft’s original tale, but it just feels so cringeworthy in places that it really didn’t hook me in. Ultimately, we’re helping the investigator Thomas Dawson to track down his agent Elina Harper, who went missing while checking out what is going on in the town. Along the way, we encounter many of the folks from Lovecraft’s Shadow over Innsmouth, but it all feels like a box-checking exercise for the most part. When the conspiracy begins to reveal itself, it feels a lot like the Dunwich Legacy campaign, where someone adjacent to a Lovecraft character is trying to repeat the events that already happened in a Lovecraft story.

Unfortunately, I think this is where campaigns like Innsmouth, Dunwich, and Edge of the Earth fall down, because they don’t have an original storyline. Carcosa, Forgotten Age, and Dream-Eaters are all quite good in comparison, even if the Dream-Eaters follows the Dream-Quest quite closely in parts. I suppose I’m being a bit harsh here, but I would have preferred something more different. I’m not sure what, exactly, but I think the efforts to tie this one to the source material have been a bit too clumsy to be enjoyable, if I’m being completely honest.

Arkham Horror LCG

That said, the scenarios themselves are often quite interesting, mechanically speaking. There are some which call back to earlier outings, especially stuff like trying to find the person who kidnapped Elina Harper feeling a lot like the Midnight Masks from the core set. I really enjoyed that one, as it has a very “investigation” aspect when you’re trying to deduce who has kidnapped her, and where she’s being held. Devil Reef has a lot of negative press, but I really enjoyed this one, as we’re travelling around in a boat while trying to find keys, and we need to have certain things in a certain order before we can advance.

Keys in general have become a physical thing in this campaign. Previously, if a scenario had cause to require evidence or something similar to be placed on a card, it would usually use resource tokens, but now we have several coloured key tokens, each one having a certain effect in-game, though these effects are different depending on the scenario. We also have flood tokens, which can cause a location to be partially or fully flooded, which in turn has certain effects such as making enemies more dangerous, or just dealing out damage at the end of the turn if you’re somewhere that has been flooded. We also have the blessed/cursed mechanic, which I really like because it’s classic Arkham to have, although part of me is a bit sad at the fact that the mechanic doesn’t seem to be fully supported outside of this campaign.

Arkham Horror LCG

Overall, then, it’s a bit of a mixed bag, this campaign. The storyline was perhaps one of the weaker elements of the game, and even paying no attention to the timeline while playing through what was going on, I don’t think it prevented me from enjoying the scenarios on their own merits, and what was being done during the course of playing cards etc. The in-between-games moments let it down, I suppose. The finale, going up against Dagon and Hydra, seemed to be quite weak as well, in comparison to other finale scenarios. We had the chance to keep both Ancient Ones asleep, as the objective is to drain all of the locations in play, which can only done within the lair of each Ancient One. Whether I was just lucky, or whether I had strong investigator builds, I don’t know, but it was quite simple to keep them both quiet while Finn went around draining locations and Zoey was fulfilling the willpower checks to remove doom tokens wherever they popped up. There is a lot of movement involved, across all scenarios, and I think being able to take extra turns and move is really key here. However, it never felt too impossible to complete.

Arkham Horror LCG

So, that’s everything played except for Scarlet Keys, which I still haven’t yet picked up. I think, of the six campaigns, Innsmouth is somewhere in the lower end for me. Good scenarios with a mediocre overall storyline. Carcosa and Circle Undone are still my two favourites, and I am about to embark upon a Path to Carcosa campaign next, with Marie Lambeau and Silas Marsh!

Deck Progression in Arkham Horror LCG

Hey everybody,
Today’s topic is something that I’ve been thinking about off-and-on for quite a while now, but it wasn’t until my recent run-through of the Dunwich Legacy campaign that I began to think about it properly. Arkham Horror LCG is quite unique among the LCGs that I have experience with, for having the mini-RPG feel of levelling up your deck as you go through the game. Throughout each campaign, you’ll earn experience equal to the victory total among cards in the display, so whenever you defeat a big bad, or you fully investigate a difficult location, you could earn any amount of experience. This is then used as a currency between games to level-up cards in your deck. Cards in Arkham Horror LCG have “pips” underneath their resource cost, from 0 to 5, which denotes how much experience is needed to buy them for your deck. When you build a deck to start a game, you can only use level 0 cards, but as time goes on, you can grow it in all kinds of ways.

Sounds amazing, and like it should lead to a truly immersive experience as you go through a campaign. However, I find myself really struggling to find cards to spend that XP on, most of the time. So I’ve been thinking a lot about this, and I’ve been doing some research, and thought I’d present to you all the fruits of these labours. I’m by no means an expert in this, of course! But hopefully it’ll be useful. For the purposes of this discussion, I’m not going to talk about using experience to play standalone scenarios, which is another use of XP; this post is simply going to look at upgrading your deck as you play through the campaign.

Arkham Horror LCG

First of all, and perhaps the easiest way to use experience points, is to directly upgrade copies of existing cards in your deck, for their higher-cost equivalents. That’s a higher cost in terms of the experience, not resources cost to play the card in-game. So the level 0 talent Hyperawareness costs 2 resources to play, and allows you to spend a resource to boost an attribute as a free action; the level 2 equivalent costs 0 resources to play, for the same effect. It also includes twice as many icons on the left hand side, so if you choose to commit it to a skill test instead, it’s giving you twice as much value. The level 4 version actually gives you the resources you need to trigger the effect, as well. It’s a good example of the principle, and provides the clearest target for your experience to upgrade the card, especially as it’s a much better version of an effect that you already had in the deck. With each class having a couple of these talent cards, it’s an excellent starting point.

There are a number of similar instances as well, where you’ll get weapons which may cost less in their upgraded cost, or with better effects, and so on. With the card pool where it is now, there are plenty of cards which can be straight-upgraded, although back in the day these options were of course more limited. In this respect, then, upgrading your deck becomes easier with more releases for the game, because the designers will still go back and provide upgrades (or downgrades) of older cards. It makes it easy, because you don’t really have to think about which cards to cut from your deck in favour of the fancier cards, I guess!

The way you approach deck progression can actually depend on whether you’re playing super-thematically, or whether you’re simply trying to make your deck the best it can be. I must admit, for all that I love the narrative of games (especially this game), I tend towards the latter, as I want to have the best options available to me when I go through my games. However, many cards exist as multiple points on the experience “tree”, so there will be a stepped approach to including them in your deck. Being able to upgrade a card to a level 1 or 2 version, then upgrade that same card again to a level 3 or 4 version, does have a thematic sense, especially if it is a skill that you can imagine your investigator learning, and getting better at applying to the traumatic events unfolding. 

Working this way makes sense, naturally, but it has taken my writing this blog now to realise that the best way to spend experience is actually when you get it, unless you’re saving for something specific. While playing through the Dunwich Legacy campaign recently, I played through four scenarios without upgrading my deck once, meaning I had accrued 13 experience points with nothing to spend it on. However, making small adjustments after each game is perhaps a much better way to go about things, as I think it could lead to some better games with potentially stronger synergies over time. It also fits into the more narrative method of playing, as you’re slowly getting better after each encounter with the Void, rather than having it all in one hit.

But I suppose that’s just symptomatic of the fact I don’t really have a plan!

I think my biggest confusion with it all arises when you’re going for a completely different card, though. So you might be looking to swap in a level 5 weapon and find that your best swap out is a level 0 event, or something. There’s something of a disconnect for me, when you build the initial level 0 deck almost as a placeholder for some of the better, higher-level cards. It’s almost like you include some chaff to then purposefully upgrade later on. Or, and this is how I usually end up building a deck, I try to get it as best I can with the level 0 cards and, when I start to gain the experience, I find that the deck is working fine for me so I don’t have many viable targets for upgrade. Yes, there will be the standard straight-upgrades for better higher-level cards, but not all level 0 cards have a level 5 version (some don’t have any upgraded version, at all). In fact, there are some very useful – even some very powerful – level 0 effects that just don’t need upgrading. It seems perhaps odd, but I truly believe you could play through an entire campaign without upgrading your deck, if you built it well from the off. I know that the choice of investigators must be key, being balanced for each other and for the scenario, but even so, my getting through so much of the recent Dunwich visit without upgrading once is perhaps proof of that – I only started to spend the XP because I felt as though I had to!

In this case, I suppose it works best to have some kind of blend of the two approaches, so that you’re trying to build a good deck, that will see you through the first few games, but that has a clear trajectory for upgrade through the campaign. When building the deck, then, it might make sense to look at the level 5 cards first, to see where you might want to aim for, and then work backwards to see what sort of path you could take to get there.

Arkham Horror LCG

For example, I’ve recently played through the Innsmouth Conspiracy campaign with Zoey Samaras, and had decided from the off that she would be built into a sort of “holy warrior” character, going for blessed effects, willpower buffs and hitting like a brick wall in combat. I definitely wanted that level 5 spear in the future, but more importantly, I wanted to build out thematically. There’s more to say on this in the upcoming blog on my Innsmouth experience, which is coming next week, but this approach to deck building was new for me, and required a lot more work than I’m used to, but I actually found it really rewarding!

Going off-topic slightly, I think I have also come undone at times by simply not really knowing the investigator class all that well. I think Guardian is perhaps the most straightforward, although there are nuances there that I like, and Seeker and Mystic are quite clear in what they are all about. Indeed, trying to build a Mystic deck can sometimes be an exercise in restraint, because there are too many good options to take account of. In contrast, Rogue and Survivor are perhaps the classes that I am least familiar with, although I have attempted to remedy that as regards Survivor in previous games. Rogue is still a class that often eludes me how to best play it, however, which is why I paired Zoey with Finn Edwards in my recent Innsmouth visit. Again, there’s more to say on his deck as well, but you’ll have to wait for the next blog for that!

Being able to make sense of what you’re trying to do is probably key, though, as it will allow you to make that decision for whether you want to swap out certain cards, or which level 0 cards you could keep in your deck. It’s all tied into having that trajectory, of course, and knowing how you want to progress your investigator through the campaign.

Arkham Horror LCG

The other thing to bear in mind through all of this, though, is what your investigator is actually trying to do, of course. Marie, above, wants cards with doom on them so that she can take extra turns with her spells, so you need to make sure there are such cards to give you benefits of the investigator’s ability. As you go through the process of upgrading a deck, you need to bear these things in mind, rather than going ahead to get straight-up better cards. It’s a case of upgrading spells with spells, and so on. That said, we could be back in the realms of having chaff cards in the starting deck, with an eye to upgrade for some more powerful cards later on, which will feed in to the investigator’s ability. This can happen where the lower level card is either too expensive to consider for a starting deck, or a lower level card doesn’t exist.

A lot of this missive has talked about upgrading to higher level cards, but there is equally the option of side-grades, where you trade out cards of the same level. Doing this will cost one XP, as the minimum spend is 1, but it does mean that you can try out other stuff if your upgraded card isn’t working out for you. I have sometimes done something similar with level 0 Mystic cards, as there are so many good ones, it can sometimes be hard to know which ones to use. I know some folks like to allow a limited number of swap outs for level 0 cards after the first game in a campaign, to keep the XP gained but to guard against a dud card in your deck, which is a good idea, but I do like the fact you can keep on using different level 0 cards throughout a campaign, regardless.

The more I’ve looked into it, and the more I’m writing this, it’s making me realise that my usual approach of just levelling up at random, picking the higher-level versions of cards already in my deck (because I don’t know what else to get!) is not really working for me. After Dunwich, I chose Innsmouth for my next campaign, because of the campaigns I own, that’s the only one I hadn’t at the time played through fully (I’d started, but was defeated before the end). So I came up with a bit of a checklist for how to approach this next game, in terms of what I wanted from it, and where I was going with my investigators!

All in all, thematic deck progression feels the best, and most correct way to play this game. I have pretty much always enjoyed playing Arkham Horror LCG, but upgrading my deck was always something of a necessity, and seemed to get in the way of the game. I’d often approach it as an exercise is getting the biggest gameplay buffs to help me win in the end. But by building slowly, levelling up as often as I could, I was able to develop a narrative for the investigator over the course of the campaign. Zoey went from a fairly decent bruiser-type into quite the holy warrior that I had envisioned at the start, with a number of tricks up her sleeves, but she never used guns, and always had a focus on faith as she moved through, even so far as taking Brother Xavier down into the depths for the final scenario!

That’s also an important point to mention, here. Deck progression in this thematic manner isn’t simply a case of going from level 0 to level 5 by the time we get to the last scenario. I’d upgraded a couple of Zoey’s cards before the finale, including Brother Xavier who is s level 1 ally. It seemed as good a time as any to involve him, but by having the plan in place, and focusing on those key upgrades where possible, it was actually nice to have the ability to use some of the leftover XP to get some less-important stuff later in the campaign. It’s not all about building to the flashy cards, and indeed, some of the lower or mid-level cards are just as good and important to a deck as the top level stuff. But as I said before, you’ll still find a strong use for level 0 cards even by scenario 8, so it’s not like a deck building game where you’ll wish you could get rid of your basic cards after buying the flashier ones!

I hope this post has been of some interest for you, and if you’ve made it this far, fully heal your stamina, for sure! Look out for my next Arkham blog, which I hope to write up next week, where I’ll be putting all of this into practice as I take Zoey and Finn on a trip to the seaside…

40 games with Elder Sign

Hey everybody,
It’s time for another game day blog, and in celebration of 40 plays with the game, I’m once again talking about Elder Sign, and the second expansion for the game, Gates of Arkham! Released back in 2015, this was the expansion that blew the game right open, taking us out of the museum and into the wider town. As such, the gameplay, while broadly similar, does have some significant changes along the way. We have a massive stack of adventure cards, but they’re double-sided now, and colour-coded with red for hard and green for easy (relatively speaking), as well as a passive effect that could be something that is beneficial, or could be an ‘At Midnight’ or similar effect. When set up, there are three cards face up, and three face down, although the adventure card stack is kept face down as you’d expect. I quite liked this idea of having some inkling of what is coming up next, whether it’s a green or yellow (or red) adventure, and it can allow you to plan for where you might want the card to go (more shortly).

Elder Sign

This ‘Streets of Arkham’ mode brings us the classic locations that we know and love from the Arkham Horror board game, so it definitely gets me right in the feels for that. The game mode uses its own mythos deck, because there is a greater emphasis on opening gates to Other Worlds in this one, as perhaps the name would suggest. These Other Worlds now enter play through gates, which can be brought into play via the mythos deck, or by the Ancient One’s doom track or monster defeats. When the Other World is drawn, a gate token is placed on it, and a corresponding token placed on one of the adventure cards. If you ever try to move to that adventure, instead you have to encounter the Other World, and if you succeed at the tests there, you close the gate and place a seal marker on the adventure card. It’s a bit convoluted, if I’m honest, but it does bring the gates mechanic from Arkham Horror into this game, which is nice to have I guess.

Elder Sign

Also new are Events, another deck like the mythos deck which can be drawn if an adventure has the event icon. These cards are an almost equal mix of good and bad effects, and you never really know if you’re going to get the red dice for free, or if you cannot use unique items and spells for this adventure. In this expansion, we have the option to join the Silver Twilight Lodge, or the Sheldon Gang, which will grant bonuses when trying to complete some adventures (as well as allowing us to auto-complete some tasks without rolling the dice), but the mythos deck can penalise us for being members. This is where the face-down adventure stack comes into play – if you know you want to join the Sheldon Gang, and Hibbs’ Roadhouse is up next, you might go for a face-down adventure in the hope of completing it, so that it will be replaced by a face-down Hibbs’ Roadhouse that you can then use to join the gang. Finally, we have a new Skills deck, much like the common and unique items decks. These skills are quite useful, allowing you to draw two events and discard one, for example, or allow another investigator to recover sanity or stamina on your turn, etc. They are good to have, for sure, but I feel a tiny bit sad that they’re not backwards-compatible with the museum setting, too. 

The adventures in Streets of Arkham mode are a definite step-up from the base game, I would say. There aren’t quite so many Terror or At Midnight effects going off, but in general the adventures will have flat restrictions on them, like “skip your movement phase” so you’re stuck there until you complete it. There is also a wider range of rewards and setbacks for completing or failing adventures – there is a lot of ‘don’t advance the clock’ effects, as well as recovering sanity and stamina for completing the adventure. They can also be quite difficult, because you can potentially be forced to discard assets for failing. Also, cursed/blessed is back, though in a somewhat subtle way. I do love the mechanic, but it does mean you need to have Unseen Forces for the dice, unless you particularly want to be re-rolling your green dice to stand in for them.

Elder Sign

All in all, it is a solid expansion, and takes the game in a very different direction from the base game. Subsequent expansions have followed this model, from what I can tell, and provide a completely new adventure deck for the game. I’ve only played Omens of Ice up to this point, but it looks like all the other expansions also have a solid brick of adventure cards to work through.

So I’ve worked out that I’ve played Elder Sign 40 times now, since first picking it up in 2012. That isn’t really a lot of games for 11 years, I’ll grant you, but I suppose there was a lull in games generally from 2015. I often find that I have lots of peaks and troughs with this game, though. In many ways, I think it could actually be one of my absolute favourite games – it’s pretty self-contained, even accounting for the expansions, and I think I have had so much enjoyment from the base game alone, that I don’t always feel the need for any expansions to make it good. Of course, the expansions are always welcome, but it surprises me at times how I don’t automatically think to play with any of them.

Elder Sign

Last week, I played with Gates of Arkham three times in a single day, mainly because I had the time and inclination to get an expansion out for the game, but it surprised me just how much I was enjoying the Streets of Arkham mode. I’ve now played with the expansion more in the last week than I have in the eight years since it was released! I think more than anything, I enjoyed getting back to the Arkham locations, and my first game (Finn Edwards and Norman Withers vs Atlach-Nacha) was such a washout that I had to shuffle up and re-set. I next went with my most recent duo in Arkham Horror LCG, Mandy Thompson and Tony Morgan (which was fun to dig into the next expansion, Omens of Ice, for his card), and that was a great game, very wide-ranging, with Mandy joining the Silver Twilight Lodge and Tony racking up quite the body count during the course of the game. Indeed, it was Tony’s soujourn into Ry’leh that gained three elder signs at a critical moment to ensure Mandy was able to pull out a win.

Elder Sign

For the big 40, I had a bit of a composite game with investigators from Unseen Forces and an Ancient One from the base game, playing in Streets of Arkham mode, and it was really glorious. It helped, somewhat, that there weren’t a great deal of elder signs coming up as rewards, so as Hastur needed 13 to seal him away, the game went on quite long. But that just helped to really immerse myself in the proceedings. I was playing as Mark Harrigan and Diana Stanley, a classic combination that I enjoy ever since I had read the brief intro text in the Eldritch Horror rulebook. Having such a long game allowed me to experience more of what the game has to offer, although I was bizarrely rolling exceptionally well, to the point where it almost became boring – Diana was blessed early on, and re-joined the Order of the Silver Twilight. Mark was able to get so many items, and keep getting them, as well as a huge amount of clues, that it was never really a problem for him, either. I do like his passive ability to complete tasks in any order, regardless of an arrow – I think him and Amanda Sharpe from the base game (who can complete any number of tasks simultaneously) would be quite a potent combo.

There’s no doubt about it, the Streets of Arkham game mode is a lot more involved than the regular museum game. There is so much going on, it is a definite improvement on the base game in that sense. I suppose you could say that the base game will draw people in, but this expansion is the one that makes Elder Sign a real board game. Well, it’s all cards and dice, but you know what I mean. A lot of people online have said that it’s the only way they would now play the game, and I can see why they would say that. It definitely feels like the Arkham experience, and I think I want to try and mix-and-match more stuff from across the base game, Unseen Forces, and this one for some hefty games going forward!

Goodbye to Dunwich

Hey everybody,
The Dunwich Legacy continues apace, after a very slow start. Last week, I played my way through the bulk of the campaign, I think, getting into Dunwich village itself and then rescuing some of the innocent bystanders from this whole affair. After putting Silas Bishop out of his misery, I’ve then been running around Dunwich countryside trying to chase down the spawn of Yog Sothoth. Undimensioned and Unseen is a really interesting scenario, I think I’ve mentioned this a while back on the blog when I was last playing the game. There are six locations in play, again all classic Dunwich Horror locations like Cold Spring Glen and the Whateley Ruins. There will be a pre-determined number of these spawn creatures roaming the countryside, and each location will allow you to manipulate the number of clues that can be put on them. This becomes important because you can’t attack them until you advance the act, which in turn will give the investigators the power to make attacks, which use willpower instead of fight, and you get +2 bonus for each clue on the spawn.

Arkham Horror LCG

So there’s a lot going on that might not be immediately clear to you – it really gives the feeling that you’re an investigator, trying to piece together the clues.

Arkham Horror LCG

The next scenario, Where Doom Awaits, sees us climb Sentinel Hill once more to finally remove the stain of Yog Sothoth from the world. Along the way, we are beset by cultists and the like, and the path isn’t exactly clear at first, due to a strange mist barring our progress. It’s quite a thematic scenario, once more – when we do get to the summit, we find Seth Bishop there trying to call down the cataclysm, and we need to stop him!

Arkham Horror LCG

Now, I do enjoy this campaign, as I have immense affection for the source material as well as the board game. However, part of me can’t help but feel like it’s just been a bit of a slog to actually play it. Part of this might be down to my choice of investigators, of course, as well – they have been interesting to play, but I don’t think I’ve been particularly attached to either of them. As I think I mentioned in my previous Dunwich blog, I’ve been feeling a bit annoyed with my deckbuilding for them, particularly in regards to the experience that I have built up, but seem to have no inclination to spend.

So, I’ve resigned from the campaign, poised as I was on the brink!

Tony and Mandy have been put away for a rest, after their ordeal, and soon I think I’ll be choosing my new investigators ready for the next campaign. I am about 90% sure I’ll be trying to make my way through the Innsmouth campaign, having resigned from that one when my poor investigator choice led to some un-fun games, but I have also been considering perhaps going to Carcosa or Circle Undone once again. There is so much to enjoy about the game, I feel spoiled for choice!

It has made me think a bit differently about this game, though. I’d put Arkham Horror LCG on my 10×10 list at the start of the year, mainly because I’d been really enjoying my time with the Dream-Eaters before Christmas, and I suppose the thought that a campaign would be 8 games, so it would make things quite easy in that regard! However, given the fact I had such a long gap between games at the start of this one, I think that has shown that my heart wasn’t really in it. I was just playing the game for the sake of it, really, and while it has been fun at times, I can’t say that I’ve enjoyed it overall. I certainly wasn’t looking forward to playing it for the sake of playing, as evidenced by the four month gap between games two and three! There’s also the fact that the investigators were built with no specific campaign in mind, but rather just to have some decks ready to go for the next campaign, whatever that may have been. I have been thinking a lot about deckbuilding for this game lately, and I want to try to change up my approach to this for the next one. There’s a lot more to be said about this, however, so stand by for another post in the not-too-distant future!

At any rate, I’m ending my stint in Dunwich for the time being. I’ll have to have a think about which campaign will be coming next, and also which investigators will be along for the ride, and then take it from there. Of course, I’ll be rambling all about it here, when the time comes!

Getting back to Dunwich

Hey everybody,
Thankfully it hasn’t been quite so long since the last game this time, but I have made some more progress with my ongoing Dunwich Legacy play-through. It’s the third time I’m playing through this campaign, as I’ve said already, and I’m playing as Tony Morgan and Mandy Thompson, who I am not convinced are the best partners for this one! Though I suppose I played through the Carcosa campaign with Daisy and Ashcan Pete, so it’s not like I haven’t played with mis-matched pairs before now!

Arkham Horror LCG

After escaping from the Miskatonic Museum with the Necronomicon, I’m on the train to Dunwich. I had definitely forgotten just how much fun the Essex County Express is, though. In my mind, I think I was writing it off as being a bit of a road block to us getting to Dunwich, but in reality, I really enjoyed the mechanics of the scenario, as the end carriages of the train were sucked into the void and we had to make our tortured progress onwards towards the engine. At least Tony had much more to do this time, with there being more enemies for him to gun down. There are plenty of Cultists on the train, one of my favourite encounter sets for the game that sees them enter play with a doom token, and there are numerous other ways to play around with this mechanic. I am using the alternative encounter cards from the Return To box as well, Resurgent Evils and the like, which is nice to help this run through feel a bit different. It isn’t a proper Return To… campaign per se, although I have begun to think maybe I could start to sub in those cards as well, and get more of a flavour of how that goes.

Arkham Horror LCG

After playing the Essex County Express, I finally went through to use all of that experience and level up my decks, as I had a total of 13 xp from the campaign so far, and I suppose I am at the half-way point! In my head, they were using their time on the train to ready themselves for what will be facing them when they get to Dunwich!

Arkham Horror LCG

The next scenario, Blood on the Altar, has us racing around Dunwich itself as we try to find out why the townsfolk have been disappearing. It’s all very wonderful, as I do enjoy these sorts of quests where the old boardgame is recreated for us. I was able to rescue all but one of the townspeople, anyway, so have now got a bunch of assistance as we go forward into the campaign. Indeed, this scenario is then followed by another interlude, which has the flavour of a re-set about it – no matter how badly we’ve been doing up to this point, we have another opportunity to rescue the folks who we should have already got while still in Arkham in the earlier quests, and indeed, we have two ways to get the Powder of Ibn-Ghazi, which I think becomes critical in the next scenario. It’s all very useful, though, and I have another 4 XP to add to the bank, so I can’t complain! I think I’ll need another pitstop to upgrade some more before I carry on, anyway.

However, deck-progression (as opposed to deck-building) in Arkham Horror LCG is definitely something that I feel I’m not good at, as I often get into these situations with a lot of XP and no idea what to do with it! I might write up some thoughts on that at some point. As it stands, I’ve just made some fairly basic swaps for stuff at a higher level, and I’ll see how I get on with them. Oddly, though, I’ve found myself wanting to deckbuild for some new investigators, so I can try out some different things! 

So, after having taken my time so far this year to get moving with this campaign, I am now well and truly in the thick of it, with just three more scenarios to go before I see if I can indeed save the world. Fingers crossed…

My week with Marvel Champions

Hey everybody,
It feels like a while since I’ve had a game with Marvel Champions, certainly since I’ve done one of these round-up style blogs. Today, though, I thought I’d have a bit of a rambling talk about some of the games that I’ve been playing, all of which have involved Justice and Protection decks, although that was a completely unplanned theme. I’ve finally gotten round to playing with Ghost Spider and Miles Morales, despite having had the box since Christmas, and I’ve had a game with some of the newer X-Men heroes, as well!

Marvel Champions

Sinister Motives is the box that I have played the least, in part because I’m not really that big a Spidey fan. He’s fine, and all, but I’m just not really that into his whole universe of goings-on. However. This has started to change recently when my eldest has started to get into Spidey and his Amazing Friends on Disney+. I think it started from a boy in her preschool class being into Marvel, and she’s taken an interest in daddy’s game ever since. Anyway! After a few weeks of seeing the adventures of Spider-Man, Ghost Spider & Miles Morales (who is called Spin, apparently?) I thought I could take them out for a game against Mysterio – who I’ve gone up against a few times already.

It was pretty good, I must say. Mysterio’s thing is Illusions, cards going into player decks. It can be really annoying, as when you draw these cards they’re dealt to you as encounter cards. Now, you do get to draw a card back, but I had this happen when Gwen ran out of deck, so she ended up with about 4 encounters to deal with! To some extent, it was lucky because she seems to be one of these heroes who wants to play during the Villain phase, but even so!

Marvel Champions

Miles Morales is a curious deck. I really liked his hero cards, and how they can work together to get some pretty impressive turns – especially using the Peter Parker ally card to ready him, which was very nice at times! He comes with a Justice deck that has a very defined SHIELD sub theme running through it. This is all well and good, but it doesn’t seem to fit with him and his deck, really. I have the feeling they included these cards because the campaign system is based around SHIELD upgrade cards, but who knows.

I do really enjoy playing the precon decks, but I have decided to change up the Miles deck as I found it just wasn’t working for me in the way I’d like. I’ve kept him as Justice, but have swapped out all of the SHIELD cards (which is pretty much everything else!) for an alternative build. I’ve since taken this new deck out for a spin alongside Captain Marvel, going up against Crossbones.

Marvel Champions

This game was actually a whole lot of fun, although Miles was actually defeated due to the Full Auto card dealing him precisely the amount of damage that he had left. Everything seemed to go wrong at this point, because while Captain Marvel was able to defeat the first villain stage, he brought out his Machine Gun as well as the next experimental weapon, and on his activation I had to somehow absorb 6 points of damage while she only had 6 hit points left. Fortunately, I had the Cosmic Flight card that could ignore three of those points of damage, so on her turn she was able to trigger first the Energy Channel upgrade, which dealt a full 10 damage to the villain, then she had a Photonic Blast to finish him off. In a way, it was fortunate that Miles was eliminated before the first stage was flipped, because he only had 14 hit points thanks to there being only one hero left!

Marvel Champions

Even though I hadn’t got to play with a lot of the deck, as a result, I did enjoy seeing the new Miles Morales – having cards like Concussive Blow and Clear the Area meant that I was actually doing things with the Justice cards in the deck, and Concussive Blow in particular led to some very good turns, as I was able to Confuse Crossbones with that one, then Captain Marvel played a Tackle to Stun him also, which meant when Miles played Arachnobatics, he was able to deal the full 8 damage as a result. I do think it still needs a bit of work doing to it, of course, but I’m much happier with the deck this time around than I had been earlier.

Marvel Champions

I’ve also finally picked up the Rogue precon, which gives me all of the X-Men to date and, for now I think, all of the hero packs that I want. There are still the four heroes from the Sinister Motives cycle that I have yet to add to the collection. While initially I hadn’t really fancied picking these up, I can see myself getting these before too long! I suppose it’s more for the cards, to allow for more deck building options, than for the heroes themselves.

At any rate, after getting Rogue, I’ve taken both her and Gambit out for a game against Ebon Maw from the Thanos campaign.

I have no real clue about Gambit as a hero, although I know he’s very popular in the fandom. I think this is possibly because I had come to X-Men through the Bryan Singer movies rather than the comics. Rogue, of course, I know about, given the fact she’s pretty front and centre in those films. In game terms, Gambit has a Justice deck and is, I believe, the first hero who can thwart while in alter-ego mode, thanks to his ability to remove threat by discarding cards from the top of the encounter deck. He has an effect with charge counters while in hero form, where he can get +1 to attacks for removing these counters. It can lead to some very punchy turns, and I think I was really enjoying how his deck was working until I had taken my eye off the ball and he ended up being eliminated!

Marvel Champions

Elimination proved to be a disturbing theme of these recent games!

Rogue comes with a Protection deck, and her main thing is around moving the Touched card around. It represents the fact Rogue can absorb the abilities of other mutants, so if this card goes on a villain, a minion, a hero or an ally, she gains different things like Retaliate 1, or Aerial. Her suite of cards is somewhat kitted for this as well, gaining additional bonuses depending on what she’s Touching. Once I kinda got the hang of that, I think the deck played pretty nicely, and I did find myself playing a lot of the aspect cards as well, which often doesn’t happen with some of these pre-con decks on the first outing.

Rogue was actually eliminated not long after Gambit as well, unfortunately, so that ended in a fiasco, but even so, it was an enjoyable game!

Elder Sign: Unseen Forces

Last week, I decided to right some wrongs 🤓

Remember about twelve months ago, I talked about wanting to play more board games, and even had the buy-in from my wife for joining this endeavour with a semi-regular games night suggested? I was very much fired up to get round to exploring the whole Elder Sign collection, and then promptly did next to nothing to make that happen!

Well, that’s not quite true. We played Elder Sign twice, then promptly moved on.


Slightly longer than twelve months on, I’m finally getting round to making this happen. I had a game with the first expansion, Unseen Forces, which was actually pretty good, I must say! I’ve already written up a proper game-day review of the expansion, which you can read here, but suffice it to say, this expansion has got a lot to offer for anyone who enjoys the base game.

Pretty much every expansion in the game line following this one changes the mechanics wildly, moving us out of the Museum and adding additional layers of complexity. Unseen Forces, then, is almost a “pure” expansion in that it gives us more of what we enjoyed the first time around. Of course, there are new mechanics, such as the Blessed/Cursed thing that is a part of so many Arkham Files games, as well as tweaks to the mythos deck, and so on. But there’s a big part of me that really appreciates these sorts of expansions, so I always feel the need to fly that flag!

At any rate, I’ve now chalked up a game with Unseen Forces, so up next will be Gates of Arkham, the first of the expansions to break the mould. I have only played that twice, and Omens of Ice has only seen a single game, with none of the others having had a look in. I’m excited to see what everything has to offer, at any rate, as I am to see what I’ve been missing all these years!!

Lord of the Rings: mission accomplished

Hey everybody,
Much like my post from a couple of months ago, I’m here today to celebrate having made it to 10 games of Lord of the Rings LCG, marking the second of my 10×10 goals as complete. I think I’d almost made it with this game for a while, but just couldn’t seem to bring myself to play the game. However, I’ve now clocked up my tenth play, and so thought I’d share with you some rambling thoughts, as per usual!

Lord of the Rings

Trouble in Tharbad

Following on from the last game in the Ringmaker cycle, The Three Trials, I think I was growing weary of this game once more, because of the preponderance of “gotcha!” moments. I know I’ve probably had this whinge before, but the game is no fun if there is simply no chance of beating it. If I know I’m unable to win from the get-go, why would I ever waste my time? Even when you know something awful is coming, the forced effects throughout the scenarios can mean there is very little you can do to plan ahead, as you’re just swept up in the torment of it all.

However, Trouble in Tharbad is a bit different. The Time X mechanic is still front and centre, but this scenario takes the very intriguing idea of playing with your threat level; instead of placing progress on the quest, instead you lower your threat. The Time counters do reduce your threat elimination level by 10, however, meaning you need to make sure you quest like the wind before you’re eliminated at 40 rather than the usual 50.

It’s a bit like many other scenarios, in that you’re basically trying to race away from an enemy mob at your back, and in this instance you’re trying to make it to the river crossing in time. This is represented by a location card that needs an unholy amount of progress, and can only be attempted once the quest has been achieved – the upside here, though, is that your threat will be starting from 0, albeit with plenty of effects that will raise that. It’s a really interesting quest that I would tentatively say I’d play again! I think it’s just a very interesting mechanic, playing with the threat like that, and one that I thought was very intriguing to see work.

For my next game, I’m going straight to the last cycle of the game! It’s been almost a year since I first played the Shadow in the East quests, and at least one of the decks I was using for those games has now morphed into something else, but I thought it would still be fun to see how I get on as I take a look at the final scenarios for the game.

Lord of the Rings

Wrath and Ruin

I really like this one. After learning the terrible truth about the mastermind behind the goings-on during our time in the profane temple to Sauron, the heroes have returned to Dorwinion to regroup, only to be pursued there by Thane Ulchor and his Easterlings! What follows is a scenario reminiscent of earlier quests, with the heroes battling to control locations in order to advance. The basic premise of this quest is therefore quite simple – as a location leaves play as explored, it comes to the players instead of going into the encounter deck. If there are more locations under the players’ control than there are in the staging area, then the players are winning.

However, so much is layered on top of this, with cards that can bring locations back into the staging area, or cards (like Ulchor himself) who can add more locations to the staging area as soon as a location leaves play. It really is quite representative of that tug-of-war style of play. We have the Easterling Raiders encounter set in here once again, which I really like in principle, but is tough to play against as it adds treachery cards to enemies as attachments, buffing those enemies (who are no pushover, to begin with!) 

Locations are also immune to player card effects, meaning that no amount of trickery is going to help here. The only thing that I felt gave me a bit of an edge was Legolas’ ability to add progress to the quest when he successfully slays an enemy – and there are plenty of them here! There was no early-game Light of Valinor to get double duty out of Glorfindel, either, so I was basically playing this as properly as it comes! Still, I was able to scratch a victory and so the next game will see me heading off to the City of Ulfast. 

I’m pretty sure I’m going to keep playing this game throughout the year. If nothing else, I’m mid-way through three cycle playthroughs, as well as possibly still playing the Fellowship Saga. I doubt if I’m going to clock up as many miles with this as I have with Marvel Champions, though, which is interesting in some respects because I do generally think of Lord of the Rings as “my favourite game”. I think the issue I have with it is just how difficult it got to play – especially if you don’t start to house-rule things to make it more palatable. I know I could deck-build for each scenario and play through it possibly quite well, but I like to have a deck ready to go for the whole event, and don’t really have the time for deck-building as much as I used to!

I think I currently have six decks built for Lord of the Rings, and I have been thinking I might disassemble everything when I’ve finished playing through these cycles, and have a fresh start. Some of those decks had been built years ago, and while they work really well, they have hampered subsequent decks because a lot of the good cards were already taken, etc. So I am pondering whether to just wipe the slate clean. I definitely want to keep going with Angmar Awakened, and I think I want to do the same with the Ringmaker, so I suppose it makes sense to just plod along for now.

Anyway, I’m rambling, so it’s time to shut up! There’s plenty more Lord of the Rings blogs on their way as the year goes ever on, though!

Dunwich, once more

Tuesday is always game day here at, even if I don’t always get to post each and every time. Today, I’m heading back to Dunwich, for the third playthrough of the Dunwich Legacy campaign. This has been a bit of a dicey one for me so far – I set up some decks while riding high after the Dream-Eaters campaign at Christmas, but it took me almost a month to decide what to play, before I settled on Dunwich again. But after playing the first two scenarios at the end of January, I haven’t actually touched the game until the end of last week, when I went in for The Miskatonic Museum.

Dunwich Legacy

Despite having played this campaign the most, it never fails to surprise me how little I remember of the details, which of course means the replay value of this game is, for me, outstanding. As a story-driven game, it’s crucial that you can ‘forge your own path’ and so on, as if there is nothing really to be gained from playing the same story over and over. Having these kinds of branching paths is great, as you can make different choices to lead to different outcomes. For example, in the Museum scenario, you need to find a copy of the Necronomicon – when you do, you have a choice, whether to destroy it or to keep it safe. I’m fairly sure that in previous games, I’ve chosen to destroy the book, but this time, I’m going to keep it safe. Well, we shall see how that turns out!!

Dunwich Legacy

The investigators that I’m playing are quite interesting, both from the Dream-Eaters (coincidentally!) with some interesting abilities. Tony Morgan, the bounty hunter, has the ‘bounty contracts’ effect that allows him to put bounties on enemies as they are revealed and, when that enemy is defeated, claim said bounty as a resource. Playing a scenario with only one enemy in the whole deck is a bit of a waste, however, though when that enemy did show up, he was in his element! Mandy Thompson, the researcher, is a clue-gathering powerhouse, and has the ability to dig deeper when searching her deck, meaning I built her with a lot of ‘search your deck’ cards, but so far I don’t really think that has come up in games. Still, she’s able to just hoover up the clues, and I like that!

Excitingly, I have 11xp to spend, as I haven’t yet upgraded the decks this campaign. I think I might do that at the weekend, then maybe play some more.

Also excitingly, I was playing with some of the ‘new’ cards from the Return To box. In case you don’t know, each of the Return To boxes had additional player cards, and additional encounters for each of the scenarios of the cycle it revisits, though they also included alternate encounter sets for some of the commonly used sets from the core, like Ancient Evils and Creeping Cold. In theory, I could play this scenario with just this campaign, and not have to resort to core set standards. So that was nice! I think I’m going to try, as much as possible, to use these variant encounter sets during this campaign, anyway.

I’m sort of disappointed in myself, really, that I have been taking so long to get round to the game. It is, after all, a really good game! I suppose there’s a possibility that I’ve played this scenario too often to be that invested in the overall game, as I do know where we’re going ultimately, but hopefully I can still enjoy the ride during each game! And, hopefully, it will be a lot sooner than once every three or four months that I’ll be playing!