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!

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!

Star Wars: Shatterpoint

Somehow, it seems to have passed me by that there is a miniatures game coming out, set in the GFFA – I can only assume that it’s because I have assumed any references I have seen were to do with the novel of the same name, but anyway.

Shatterpoint seems like it could be good. Small-ish scale, squad based miniatures game that reminds me strongly of the old Star Wars Miniatures game from WotC, it really seems to just speak to me. I’m also feeling a bit down with GW games at the minute, possibly due to the imminent release of 10th edition making it a weird time, plus all the negativity that surrounds pretty much any new release of theirs right now.

James and I are looking to get the core set between us, I’m most likely going to cancel my Leviathan pre-pre-order so as to afford this. From what I can see, though, the game is just based on having two squads as your force, so it isn’t a particularly heavy investment as you pick up a box as you see fit. It looks fun, even though the clone war era isn’t probably my absolute favourite! I think I read somewhere that it evokes those feelings of being a 10-year-old on a Saturday morning and, while it’s been a long time since I was that young, I really like that idea…

Lots more to be said on this, for sure, but for now… I’m excited!!

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!!

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!


Hey everybody,
I had a great game of Runebound yesterday, adding in some of the smaller packs for a bit more variety, and I really feel the need to talk about it today! Well, it is game day, after all. I’m still recovering a bit from a bout of general illness that seems to have swept through the family over Easter, I think I might have sinusitis at the minute, which is just a joy to behold. Anyway, the point is, I have spent the Easter break on quite the nostalgia trip, if truth be told, re-watching the original Star Wars trilogy, then introducing my wife to Indiana Jones as she has, incredibly, never seen them before. Getting to leaf through Cracken’s Threat Dossier was also a bit of a highlight, as I do love the old West End Games RPG! It’s put me in that mood, though, and I actually broke out Escape from the Death Star for some retro gaming while I was off!


Runebound isn’t quite so retro, of course, though it is one of the oldest games that I own, and always takes me back to the heady days of 2008 when I discovered board games as a “serious” hobby with my now-ex girlfriend. In the years since, I’ve played quite a lot of Runebound, almost all of it solo, which might seem a little odd at first, but it works quite well, really. See, the original board game doesn’t really have much player interaction – players take the role of a hero from high fantasy and go about their business in a bit of a slow race, with only very occasional fights between heroes that you can entirely avoid if you want to. So in some respects, it works quite well as a solo adventure as you wouldn’t really have any interaction with the other players, so I quite enjoy playing it for that immersive experience.


I played with a couple of the small card packs added in as well, and it was really quite glorious. I think the main reason for my enjoyment was the fact that I was playing one of the DungeonQuest heroes, a magic user which is always my favourite type of hero to play. I also had a lot of runes for my guy to be using, which buffed his magic attacks but also plays into the whole theme of the game. I really love it as a high fantasy game, and I love the fact that you have this great-looking map that you’re travelling around, with all these adventures where you’re basically building up to slaying dragons. Along the way, you’ve got all sorts of classic fantasy monsters, and I really enjoy the sort of narrative that emerges for the Terrinoth setting. True, it can feel quite bland, but if you actually take the time to read the flavour text along the way, it’s a lot of fun!


It’s a game that I really wish I would play a lot more of. It’s on my 10×10 list for this year, though, so you never know – there could well be more games coming up soon where I rhapsodize about just how much I enjoyed another foray into Terrinoth, and more battles against the minions of Dragonlord Margath!

Some musings on Marvel Champions

Hey everybody,
Yes, that’s right, I’m prattling on again about Marvel Champions in today’s game day blog! That’s mainly because it has very quickly become my go-to game when I want to just have some tabletop fun, and it’s so enjoyable that I find myself looking forward to any spare time that I have in which to play it! Yesterday I was able to get a couple of games in, and that got me thinking about the subject of today’s blog.

Some Things I love about the game

While there are definitely more than just a few things that I love about this game, let’s go through some of the things that have most recently brought me joy!

Marvel Champions

Yesterday, I discovered that I had enough sleeves hanging about that I could sleeve up Rocket Racoon, which was a real joy because I hadn’t realised I could do this! I promptly did so, and played a game with him and Valkyrie, who I had picked up (and sleeved up) shortly before Christmas. Rocket comes with an aggro deck, and I was playing this as it comes, and had quite a blast. I was particularly impressed by the fact I was able to use my hand each turn, so was seeing quite a bit of the deck. However, while all of this is good stuff, I love the fact that Rocket is a great mix of aggo and thwarting, with a lot of his hero-specific cards buffing his THW value, and so on. Yeah, he’s got a lot of guns, of course, but he also has a lot of threat removal, and it was a really great gameplay experience to have that blend right out of the box. A lot of the stuff I had read about Rocket talked about how much he likes to fight Minions, which is also true, but it really surprised me to see how effective he could be! 

Indeed, one of the best things about this game is how you can just buy a hero pack, and (on the whole) play it without needing to deck-build for ages. True, there are some that have some issues, but nothing I have come across so far is “unplayable”. Take, for instance, the aforementioned Valkyrie – her deck has been much maligned by a lot of the stuff I see online, yet she was quite fun to play! Whether that’s because I was playing her with Rocket against Absorbing Man, who isn’t one of the most difficult villains in the game, who knows. But she’s the perfect example of needing to try these things for yourself (though the irony of me writing this online is not lost on me!) After going through a bit of a phase, early on, where I wanted to build my own decks all the time, I have come to the realisation now that a lot of the hero decks are absolutely fine right out of the box.

Marvel Champions

Some Things I still find a bit odd

I’ve talked before about the main thing that I find odd about this game, its distribution model, but let’s not get bogged down in that again. Rather, I thought I’d go through some stuff that I find just a little odd.

First off, the game can sometimes fall a bit flat right at the end. When playing a game of Marvel Champions, you choose your hero and go up against a villain, and for the whole game you’re fighting against them, so there isn’t really any sense of progressing through minions until you fight the big bad guy. As you’re dealing damage throughout the game, when you deal the final blow for victory, it can sometimes be a bit anti-climactic, as you’re teetering on the brink of death, you’ve survived yet another activation from the villain, but then bam – you play a card that deals 7 damage to him and it’s just over. Or sometimes, I’ve actually been able to have a single point of damage dealt by an ally that has caused the villain’s defeat. Rarely, the villain will be defeated through something like Retaliate, or a card effect that can bounce damage back or something. It can be hilarious, don’t get me wrong, but sometimes, it’s just a bit odd – like, “is that it?”

Marvel Champions

I think it’s a bit weird how every hero comes with their nemesis set, and yet there is only one card in the whole game (so far as I know!) that can bring that set to bear. I’ve played this game upwards of 40 times now, and have only ever seen a hero’s nemesis enter the game twice, which is just a bit weird really. In the vast majority of my games, those five cards are just sat there, and never come into play.

I think The Hood scenario pack was a great way to introduce more modular sets to the game, and I do like the fact that some heroes also come with modular sets to use as well. I do find myself thinking about whether we could see alternative encounter sets for the existing villains, though, too. I really don’t know how that would ever work, maybe instead of the modular encounter sets there would be an “expansion set” that basically doubles a villain’s deck, working off the established theme in there? I don’t know. Part of me does feel that the villains are too closely tied to their schemes, which has closed off an avenue of expansion there – is Rhino only ever trying to break into that bank? Sabretooth’s sole purpose in life was to capture Senator Kelly? Seems a bit weird, like there should be a way to have them do something else, and change it up. But I could be over-thinking it!

Marvel Champions


Some Things I would like to see next

I’ve been seeing a lot of panic online because we’ve not yet had a preview for the next expansion after the latest X-Men wave has concluded, with folks thinking the game must be dying or there are licensing issues preventing FFG from continuing the game. I hope that’s all wrong, and I hope that they’re actually just pacing themselves for a bit (given that the X-Men stuff would have been designed mid-pandemic, and so it’s entirely plausible that they need to regroup). During the GenCon live stream, they did say that the next three waves would be mutant-based, so I think we can be pretty sure it’s safe for now.

I’m a big fan of the X-Men, but I find myself thinking of this more as a game than a thematic experience, so while I do enjoy the variety of heroes and villains, I can’t really say that “I hope they do my favourites!” because I don’t really feel all that strongly about the source material! 

That said, I really would like a Daredevil/Elektra cycle of stuff, with the Kingpin as a villain.

Marvel Champions

However, in terms of gameplay, I do find myself often wanting more variety in the villains than the heroes. I think I’ve touched on this before, but for me, “the game” is mainly around the villain, as that is where most of the actual playability comes into it. The heroes are cool and all, but we need the villains to give us the changing experience. Imagine going up against Rhino/Klaw/Ultron with all of the released heroes to date, it would just be mind-numbing. A lot of my thought process when I decide to play this game is around which villain to play, because I see that as the main thrust of the game. As such, I think I would like to see more scenario packs released, potentially even a campaign box with all-villains.


Anyway, those are just a few random thoughts from my most recent games with Marvel Champions. Like I said before, it’s fast becoming my go-to game, and I’ve already exceeded my goal of playing 10 times in 2023. I’m sure there’ll be plenty more games before the year is out, as well!

Marvel Champions: mission accomplished

Hey everybody,
Today’s game day is really a celebration of the fact that I have now completed my goal of playing ten games of Marvel Champions this year. Unsurprisingly, given the recent spate of playing in January, it wasn’t too long before I hit my goal! The game is just so nice and straightforward to play, it really is very easy to get it to the table!

In the main, I’ve been playing with both the Red Skull and the X-Men campaign expansions – although I haven’t been playing them as a campaign. I’ve made it to game four (Zola) in the Red Skull box, and the Sentinels in the X-Men (playing Sabretooth twice). It’s been a lot of fun, and I think I’ve gotten into a bit of a flow with it now, where I have some go-to heroes that I enjoy playing and so simply shuffle up and play!

Marvel Champions

The Red Skull box has been just great. I’ve been playing this with Hawkeye and Black Widow, with their pre-con decks, and it’s been an absolute blast. Of the four, I think Crossbones was definitely one of my favourites to go up against – indeed, he’s one of my all-time favourite enemies to play against, based on how that game went! Absorbing Man was a bit lacklustre, though I think it could be different based on different modular encounter sets and so on, and I think it would be interesting to go up against him again.

Taskmaster was probably one of the more disappointing scenarios, I think because I didn’t trigger enough of what makes the scenario stand out (rescuing allies). I think that would definitely bear playing again, to see if it will work out differently for me. Finally, I went up against Zola yesterday and, while I had read some horror stories about him online, I didn’t think he was quite so bad as I had perhaps been led to believe. There are so many more minions than I have seen of late, of course, and it was interesting that he has Retaliate 1, meaning that most allies were dying off after just a couple of rounds of attacking him. However, it was still a good game to play against him, I didn’t really feel like it was a nightmare running away with me at any time.

Marvel Champions

In terms of the X-Men box, I thought that Sabretooth was a bit messy at times, but the Sentinels scenario was just incredible! I have already mentioned this in my January retrospective, but I cannot stress just how enjoyable it was to play this one – it wasn’t easy, of course, and it was at times quite awful, but it just felt like how I would expect an X-Men scenario to play. There were some especially cinematic moments around Sentinel minions popping up, and Cyclops getting marked for death and so on.

Marvel Champions

I had a huge influx of Marvel Champions content in December, of course, but I have still picked up a few extra bits since! Last week, I bought The Hood scenario pack, mainly because I’d gone into my local games shop looking for the Phoenix hero pack and she wasn’t in stock! However, The Hood is one of those interesting expansions to a game whereby the designers do something a little different to the norm, and it was wriggling around at the back of my mind about picking him up sooner rather than later. The “gimmick” with the pack is that he has nine new modular encounter sets, plus alternative sets for Standard and Expert which crank up the difficulty of each. While these new modular sets are all themed roughly around the Street Level heroes within the Marvel universe, with a very loose Criminal theme tying them together, they’re still independent enough that they could be slotted into any other scenario in the game.

The Hood himself uses up to seven of them, although he only starts play with one shuffled into his deck, and each villain stage shuffles one more in. I think the main scheme shuffles more in as it advances, too, though I was able to stay on stage 1B for the whole game, so I didn’t trigger that. He actually makes for quite an interesting game, though, because his “thing” is the Foul Play mechanic, where you discard the top of the encounter deck and, if that card isn’t part of The Hood’s own scenario, you deal it to yourself as an encounter card. There are numerous ways to trigger this during the game, and so I think I easily saw the whole deck almost twice. I used Crossfire’s Crew as the modular set shuffled in at the start, then when I defeated the first villain stage I shuffled in Streets of Mayhem, which is a nice set of environments that simply add effects like Retaliate 1, +1 attack, Steady, etc. They’re global effects, but they do also have Surge, so there can sometimes be a lot going on with him!

Marvel Champions

I definitely enjoyed trying him out, anyway – for theme, I used my Spider-Man deck alongside Doctor Strange, and while the former is one that I’ve thrown together myself, the latter is mostly the pre-con. I say this because I think it’s interesting to contrast how both of yesterday’s games went. Zola wasn’t easy, but he was enjoyable in part due to the fact Hawkeye and Black Widow work so well together, and The Hood wasn’t a cakewalk but was also pretty fun to go up against, again because I know the Spider-Man deck, and Doctor Strange can have some very powerful effects.

Knowing the deck is a much bigger deal than I thought it would be, though. Having only played Doctor Strange once, I found myself a little confused at times at what I was planning to do with cards – indeed, at one point I played nothing and ended up having to discard cards, because I had drawn my hand when in alter-ego form, then flipped to the hero side. In contrast, a deck like Black Widow is interesting because you know that you want to get as many Preparations out as possible, and you know that there are some key cards that you should aim to get out early to help with the economy, etc.

Marvel Champions

It’s a really great game, and I particularly enjoy the fact that it’s the sort of game that you can just pick up and play, without a great deal of fuss to it. I really enjoy it, anyway, and I don’t think I will be stopping now that I’ve reached those 10 plays for 2023. Indeed, it wouldn’t surprise me if I end the year having played this one a hundred times…

Marvel Champions: the card game

It’s Marvel Champions week here on my blog, where I’m getting to grips with the massive influx of content for this game that came my way between my birthday and Christmas last year. I initially got into the game last summer, but was trying to do my best to take it slow, and learn how to play the game at my own pace. The last thing I wanted was to drown in content, and that feeling lasted at least a couple of months!

The way the game is distributed, however, made me change my mind, and I began to buy more stuff in order to increase my options when it came to deck-building for the game.

Tuesdays are my traditional game days, of course, where for years I would post a blog that highlighted one of my favourite games, and so on. Today, therefore, I think it might be a good idea to go through how the game works, as that will no doubt be a major help during the rest of this week’s blog posts!! When I last did a blog like this, it was after my very first play, and I was still trying to learn the rules. I’ve now played this game about thirty times, all told, so I’ve got a much better understanding of the rules!

So let’s take a look at how the game is played, once again! This may be a long post, now that I understand the game some more, but I think it’s important to go through due to the fact there is so much more Marvel Champions content coming up!

Marvel Champions

The object of the game is for players to work together to defeat the villain. There are usually two villain cards in play, one on top of the other, referred to as villain stages. If you’re playing the game in Standard mode (which I do), then you use stage one and stage two of the villain. For Expert mode, you start on stage two. When both villain stages have been defeated, the players win! However, the villain has a scheme deck, anywhere between one and three cards, which he or she is trying to advance by scheming. If a scheme card accumulates enough threat, it is advanced, and if the final scheme card is advanced, the villain wins. Alternatively, if the villain is able to deal enough damage to each hero that they are defeated, the villain also wins. 

In many ways, then, it’s quite a simple game, as the player objective is to basically deal enough damage over time to defeat the villain. However, the scheme cards need to be dealt with as well, so you can’t be punching every single turn. Furthermore, the villain has an encounter deck that is full of nefarious things, such as minion cards who will also either attack the heroes or scheme alongside the villain, or treachery cards that will wreak havoc with the heroes in all manner of ways. There are also side schemes, which can make the main scheme more difficult to deal with. So each round is definitely a delicate balancing act!

Each round is divided between the Player phase and the Villain phase. In the Player phase, you can switch form between your hero and alter-ego, which can have an impact on what cards you can play and interact with. You can play cards by paying their cost and putting them into play (in the case of ally, support or upgrade cards), or trigger the action on the card if it is an event card. Upgrades, allies and support cards may also have actions that you can trigger. You can also use your hero’s basic powers, such as attack and thwart, or your alter-ego’s recovery. (Heroes also have a basic defense, which comes into play when defending against an attack, but that will come later).

To pay the cost of a card, you need to discard cards to generate resources, or use the abilities of cards in play to generate them. For ally cards, a player can only have three in play, although of course there are cards which allow you to break rules like these. When generating resources from cards, you sometimes need to pay a specific type of resource to gain an effect, or you’ll gain a bonus effect for paying a specific type of resource. There are three types – mental (blue), physical (red), energy (yellow) and also wild (green), which are shown by the icons in the bottom-left corner of the card.

Dealing damage through attacks and attack actions is quite simply a case of either dialling down the villain dial, or placing damage tokens on minions. Thwarting a villain allows you to remove threat from a scheme in play, although some cards (mainly side schemes) have the Crisis icon, which forces you to deal with that scheme first. This, of course, can be devastating as it could allow the main scheme to accrue too much threat! To use your basic hero or alter-ego actions, you must exhaust the card, by turning it on its side. (You can still flip between hero and alter-ego while exhausted, and you can still trigger actions on cards including your hero/alter-ego while exhausted; you just can’t use the basic actions of thwart/attack/defense, or recovery).

Marvel Champions

Allies can also thwart and attack, but in the majority of cases they will take consequential damage for doing so. This means that an ally won’t be around forever to help you, and so you’ll often have to weigh up whether an ally is going to best serve you by thwarting or attacking, or as a meat shield to absorb the villain’s attacks. Again, to use allies, you must exhaust them. Other cards like supports or upgrades may also require you to exhaust them to get their benefits.

Once you’ve done everything you want to do, you can discard any cards left in your hand, then draw up to your hand size at the end of your turn. You then ready all cards in your play area, and take a deep breath before the Villain phase begins!

To begin, the main scheme will accrue threat as per the Acceleration Field, which shows how much threat (usually per player) it gains each round. This acts like a basic clock for the game, because if the players ended in their Hero form, the villain will attack them – potentially meaning a turn could pass without the scheme accruing threat. The main scheme has an Acceleration field, but there are also many cards (mainly side schemes) that have an Acceleration icon, which will add additional threat tokens to the main scheme.

Marvel Champions

The villain then activates against each player, depending on which form that player has ended their turn in. If the player is in Hero form, the villain attacks as stated; if they are in Alter-Ego form, the villain will scheme, placing more threat on the main scheme. To do either of these actions, the villain is dealt a face-down encounter card which is then revealed to check for boost icons on the bottom-right corner. Boost icons buff the villain’s main scheme or attack stat, so two boost icons deal +2 attack or threat. Sometimes a card will have a star icon instead of a boost icon – the star doesn’t buff the villain inherently, but will trigger an effect on the card itself that will then resolve.

If there are any minions in play engaged with a hero, they will also activate, either scheming or attacking as well, although they don’t get boost cards.

Heroes and allies can defend against villain and minion attacks – and if you choose not to, another player can also use their hero or allies to defend you. Allies can defend, and absorb all of the damage from a villain attack regardless of how much health they have, although some attacks may have Overkill, where excess damage rolls over onto the hero (or, indeed, to the villain if this is a hero attack against a minion!)

Marvel Champions

Finally, each player is then dealt an encounter card. Again, some cards (mainly side schemes) have a Hazard icon that forces an additional encounter card to be dealt to each player. These cards are then turned face up, and can either be minions who will engage the player to whom it was dealt; treachery cards which have a one-time effect then get discarded; attachments which go on the villain (and usually make things so much worse), and side schemes, which will come into play with threat on them, and generally make the heroes’ job that much more difficult. New minions dealt this way do not attack or scheme the turn in which they arrived, however.

There are also the player Obligation cards, which are shuffled into the encounter deck at the start of the game, and which can cause problems for the heroes by interrupting any plans being laid. You may also find that your Nemesis minion and side scheme gets shuffled into the encounter deck, causing further chaos for the heroes! That said, I think in all of my games up to now, I’ve only had to do this once, so it isn’t a very common occurrence.

At any rate, that is the end of the round, and the players then get to lick their wounds and fight back!

There’s a lot of text in this post, I know, but the game actually plays out really quickly once you get going with it. I think it’s interesting how straightforward it can be at times, but I suppose this speaks to how the designers have made a game that can appeal to the mass Marvel crowd while also having a depth that will bring gamers into the fold as well. While I enjoy the Marvel theme, and will quite happily sit through any of the movies and TV shows that are being put out there, I think it’s interesting that I enjoy this game more for its actual gameplay than for its theme. There are quite a few games that I will play because I like the theme more than anything else, but this one intrigues me because I’ve come to it as a game first and foremost, and not because I’m some kind of huge Marvel fan. That, however, has been where I’ve gone a bit wrong, as I had initially thought I would only pick and choose the heroes and expansions that I liked the sound of, from having watched the movies or whatever. But given that I like the actual game so much, I find that I want more of these packs because I want to build new and different decks, etc! They’ve definitely got me with this one!

It is a fairly quick game to get through, like I said, although some villains can stall you a bit as you try to deal with everything that’s going on. Klaw from the core set is a good example of this, where he has a number of side schemes in play which can dictate the flow of what you’re doing, as well as some pretty tough minions in his deck. To cap it all off, the second stage gives him a massive boost in hit points which means the game just goes on for a very long time as you try to make it through each round. There are other villains that have so much going on that it does feel like a proper gaming session, and not just a quick play-through that can last half an hour, or whatever. Unless of course, you just die really quickly!

The Learn to Play booklet is excellent, and really takes you through the game step-by-step. There is also a Rules Reference booklet that goes over the more complex stuff, but generally speaking you can play this game without your head stuck in these booklets after just a couple of games – I’m not being disparaging here, I think it’s amazing how the game has been so well-designed! Often, you’ll find a game can be so dense to work out what you’re trying to do, it can take hours to work through even a tutorial scenario, or whatever. Not so, here! 

A well-designed game is great, but the variety that has come out of having such a rich and varied universe to work within is definitely another plus point for this game. I think the way the game is structured around villain-scenarios is great, of course, and the addition of modular encounter sets to subtly change these villains is fantastic, but heroes and their decks is another excellent point. I’ll get more into this later in the week, but each hero comes with a small deck of around 15 cards that are their Hero cards. They then bulk out their deck to between 40 and 50 cards from one of the four Aspects, Justice, Leadership, Aggression and Protection. Any hero can be built in any Aspect, so you can play your favourites in a number of different ways. The Hero cards will dictate, to some extent, what you want to include in the wider deck, but it’s amazing how much replay variety you can get out of the game in this way.

All in all, it’s just so much fun to play, I can’t believe it took me so long before I actually bought and played it!

Necromunda vehicles

It’s not massively complicated, of course, but since I’ve been working on painting the Goliath Maulers, I’ve been off-and-on trying to work out how vehicles work in Necromunda. There are loads of rules for them, both in the new Ash Wastes rulebook and in Book of the Outlands, but it’s interesting (to me) how the internet generally only talks about adding them to your gang, but not playing with them.

Necromunda Ash Wastes

I’ve got a game of Necromunda coming up later this week, so thought I’d dummy up a session to try to remember the rules, as it has been a very long time since I last played – and indeed, I’ve never played with the new Ash Wastes stuff. Having recently finished painting the Goliath gang, it was great to get them out for a spin, as well!

To start with, then, vehicles are almost the same as any other fighter – they can take actions, they can attack or be attacked, etc. The vehicle will usually have a weapon, and a crew, who will be responsible for firing that weapon. Vehicles begin the game mobile, but can become stalled or wrecked as the game goes on. The various conditions a vehicle can be subjected to determine which actions they can perform. So you can move, you can shoot, you can ram, you can move and shoot (moving half your move value to do so), and so on.

When you move, you go in a straight line. This may cause you to collide with terrain and stuff, but you can manoeuvre during a move, if you need to pivot to get around things. Otherwise, you only get to change your direction at the start or end of a move. It really makes you think about what you’re trying to do, especially if you’re trying to do a drive-by – you can’t just curve around things without thinking things through.

There are many game effects that can see the crew losing control of the vehicle, too. This is kinda funny, but it reflects the somewhat difficult terrain and the ramshackle vehicles they’re driving.

Necromunda Ash Wastes

You can, of course, attack vehicles, and it works similar to attacking other fighters. Vehicles have front, side and rear Toughness, and you resolve your hit depending on which you’re shooting at (or beating up). Once a hit has been scored, damage is inflicted via the vehicle dice – special location and damage dice that allow you to score glancing, penetrating or catastrophic hits against the body, engine, crew or drive of the vehicle. Depending on which type of hit is scored and where, different effects will take place. So for instance, a glancing hit to the drive will force a loss of control test (more in a bit), while a catastrophic hit to the engine will remove two hull points and reduce its move value by half for the rest of the game.

In my test game today, the Orlock champion scored a catastrophic hit against a Goliath mauler with his heavy bolter, destroying the vehicle in one shot!

Necromunda Ash Wastes

When a vehicle is reduced to 0 hull points, it becomes wrecked and can essentially function as terrain. The crew will be thrown clear, which I hadn’t realised, but that does mean you potentially need to have more models painted up for this!

Vehicles have a handling value, which is used when making a loss of control test. If failed, you roll a d6 and the Control dice, which is another new type of dice for the vehicle rules. This result will determine if the vehicle swerved, jackknifes, of rolls when the loss of control test is failed, with the d6 determining which direction it moves, left or right. Rolling vehicles can end up on their side or the roof, and will consequently wreck.

Necromunda Ash Wastes

It’s a pretty good system, when you get into it, and I think it’ll be fun to try out more vehicle battles in the future. The rules for Necromunda are quite dense anyway, and while the vehicular additions can be seen as making that worse, in all honesty I don’t think they’re all that bad – I mean, it’s just more of the same, in many respects. However, adding in this new type of “fighter” does really open the game out in so many ways, and as I’ve already said, I can’t wait to see what other vehicles will be making their way into the wastes!