A Shadow in the East

Hey everybody,
Today’s blog is perhaps unsurprisingly taking us into Middle Earth, following on from last week’s exciting discussion of new decks for the game! I’m currently investigating the later cycles for the game, having pretty much stopped playing the game regularly during the fourth cycle, The Voice of Isengard. So, even though this expansion was released back in 2018, it’s new to me!

A Shadow in the East starts off when the heroes are resting in Dale, after the previous cycle’s adventures had concluded. Envoys from Dorwinion, in the east, arrive with news of spreading darkness – disappearances, mainly, but with no army for defence, the people have turned to King Brand for aid. The heroes volunteer for the mission, and off we go!

The first scenario, The River Running, reminds me a great deal of the first scenario from The Voice of Isengard – being relentlessly pursued by enemies, this time, Easterlings. We have a tremendous amount of pressure exerted through the Objective card, which forces the arrival of more enemies every third round. Coupled with this is a set-aside Side Quest, and the annoying number of Treachery cards which, for this scenario, function as attachments for enemies! Don’t get me wrong, I like that mechanic, and was surprised it took so long to be implemented in the game, but even so, it does make things so much more difficult!!

Assuming that we make it out alive, our next task is to head for the city of Dorwinion, built on the shores of the sea of Rhûn. Here, we learn that people have been disappearing, so we head out into the city to investigate.

Danger in Dorwinion is the second scenario, and bears a striking resemblance to the first scenario from the Against the Shadow cycle, The Steward’s Fear. We’re running round a city, ferreting out a cult; we have a random cultist enemy to defeat, and a random objective revealed to affect the game. It’s almost like being back in the realm of Gondor!

This scenario plays greatly around the threat level, and everything coalesces really quite catastrophically for the heroes, the way that the encounter deck just keeps on raising the threat. I actually lost half of the team when the Faramir/Dúnhere/Elladan side threated-out.

If we’re able to survive, one of the cultist prisoners tells us that cityfolk have been taken to a hidden temple in the Hills of Rhûn, and so we March onwards!

The Temple of Doom concludes the deluxe expansion, and is interesting to me in that it was complicated in terms of how it shakes up the main rules, but didn’t feel impossible like some third scenarios can be. We have a quest deck where each stage goes into the victory display upon completion; the number of stages there informs the threat level of the boss, Thane Ulchor, who cannot be defeated until there are 4 stages in the victory display, and there’s a side quest that cannot be completed until Thane Ulchor has 0HP left, at which point we win. That side quest is working against us though, as every fourth round it’ll force us to draw from the Power of Mordor deck; we have another boss, the Tower of Barad-Dur location (which can never be traveled to, and reduces the threat elimination level by 5), and three obnoxious objectives. With just five cards in the deck, the maths-savvy among us will realise that this means we have 23 rounds to defeat the whole thing (if you cannot draw from the Power of Mordor deck, you lose). But there are also other effects going on that will speed this up – yikes!

For all of the complicated goings-on here, it wasn’t particularly bad to play through, as the encounter deck is predominantly location cards and treacheries, and both decks I was using to play have got significant willpower output when I get them going, which has happened really quite well so far in this play-through! Regularly throwing out 20+ willpower for the quest, with numerous ways to re-use heroes for combat as well, has meant that it was fairly okay. I’m not trying to call it easy, far from it, but it didn’t feel that bad.

I wonder if I would find some of the earlier quests easier with these decks, as they benefit from the entirety of the card pool…

Story-wise, we have an unexpected call-back to an earlier villain (is it a spoiler if we’re over 4 years since this came out?) and we seem to be firmly in Sauron-country for the foreseeable future. There is a definite Against the Shadow feel to this cycle so far, so I’m intrigued as to where the story is going to take us as we move further into the cycle.

Difficulty ratings are not really something that you can really trust, yet I was still surprised that Danger in Dorwinion only merited a 5, when I was just one round from losing. True, I’ve lost to Passage through Mirkwood before now, and that rating is 1, but even so, this feels much more difficult than The Dead Marshes, but both have the same difficulty! Interestingly, it also shares that rating with The Steward’s Fear. But perhaps there’s a perceived ease about The Dead Marshes, as I’ve played that scenario quite a lot now.

This kinda brings me on to the next point, anyway. These later quests really don’t feel like the same game as those earlier ones. Maybe I’m just too struck on the Shadows of Mirkwood cycle, but I do have incredible nostalgia for that one, and there feels like too much going on in these later quests to really give the same sort of feeling. I can’t quite describe it, but I much prefer my hundredth run through Emyn Muil, say, than these new things. Maybe I’m just becoming a grouchy old man…

For all that, though, I am really enjoying finally getting to see what the later quests are all about. They’re often difficult, with a lot to keep track of, but it’s good to play them all the same. I don’t think I’m going to be in for an easy time of it, however, as I head into the cycle itself!

Ghostbusters II: the board game

Following on from last week’s look at the two Ghostbusters games that were published by Cryptozoic, I have perhaps inevitably delved into the second box for today’s game day blog, as I’ve not yet tried this one out for size.

Ghostbusters II is all about slime, of course, and that’s no different here. The new game, and all of its expansions, all feature mood slime quite heavily, and that is, I think, the biggest difference between the two games. At their core, of course, they are the same game, but the second box has a number of additions that I thought I’d talk through today, as a sort of compare/contrast.

Slime is big, then, and this affects the game through Goo Piles – tokens that are placed on the board, and that need to be investigated throughout the course of the scenario. Each scenario has a Goo Timer along the bottom, which is basically the timer that ticks down each round as you can imagine. Investigating Goo Piles will increase the timer, however, buying you time to complete the scenario.

When you investigate the Goo Pile, you get to draw from the Goo Pile Deck – another new thing. This deck is mainly made up of cards that will instruct you to either draw from an event card pile, or an equipment card pile. Equipment is stuff that you can use, while Events are additional challenges to overcome.

There are new Ghost types in this game, called Plazms. These are denoted by pink miniatures, while the Ghosts are purple. Combat works the same as previously, in that you roll a d6 and compare it with the Entity’s to-hit value, then consult the card to see what happens if you hit or if you miss. The big, big switch up here though is that the Ghostbusters themselves now come in two varieties, regular proton packs, and the new slime blower version. Ghosts are not affected by slime, and Plazms are not affected by proton packs, so you need to plan accordingly! However, a character can spend an action to swap an adjacent buster’s pack between the two (or you can spend both action slots to do it for yourself).

Really, then, that’s all there is to it! We’ve got a raft of different ghosts, we’ve got goo and plazms, and we’ve got event and equipment cards. It does make for a bit more of a hectic experience, I think, but it’s still the same basic game underneath. Which is good, I think, because it means that you can throw the dice and have some fun, while playing as the iconic ghostbusters!

The Kickstarter version that I have does come with a bunch of extra stuff, but unlike the first game, this time a lot of the “base game” is actually really quite varied, and there isn’t a tremendous amount of “important” stuff left out this time. Of course, the deluxe edition does incorporate the Louis Tully expansion, which I’m not a huge fan of because I’m one of these people who prefers to keep things separate so that I know what I’m playing. It’s not a massive problem, but it niggles a little. The actual KS exclusives this time are some fairly niche additional ghostbusters from the Extreme Ghostbusters cartoon, which doesn’t seem particularly inspired, and sadly the KS campaign never made it to $850k to give us Dana Barrett, but she’s probably the only major movie character missing from both games.

Ghostbusters II is an interesting development from the first game, with some nice additions in the way that the event and equipment cards are implemented. With the added considerations of different entities needing different combat styles (proton vs slime), it definitely feels like the gameplay steps up. The fact that we have all the new ghosts, which include the Haunted Humans toy line, is just great, and definitely taps into the nostalgia factor for me.

It’s still a fairly light game, and with the timer element it can be over very quickly. If you like Ghostbusters, if you liked the first game, and/or if you’re a child of the 80s like me, then it’s all good really!

Into the Jungle…

Hey everybody,
Today is game day, and for today’s blog I’m throwing myself into the Forgotten Age campaign like there’s no tomorrow! Traditionally, I used to write up my Arkham Horror LCG blogs in pairs, so four blogs to cover the whole campaign. However, I’ve really gotten into this one, and have played the next three scenarios in pretty quick succession, so buckle up as we go on a trans-continental journey, from Arkham to the jungles of Mexico!

We’re back in Arkham – I won’t say “safely back”, for obvious reasons – for Threads of Fate, and Ichtaca has joined the investigators, demanding that we return the Relic of Ages to its rightful place. Upon checking, we discover that both Harlan and Alejandro appear to be in danger. Ichtaca impatiently leaves, so it’s up to the investigators to find out just what’s going on.

I loved this one. We’re back in Arkham, so we’ve got the familiar locations that we love so much. The encounter set uses much from the core set, including stuff from the Midnight Masks once again. I’ve lost count of how many times these treacheries are used in other scenarios, but I just love it – it feels very Arkham to me, you know? We have the Dark Cults encounter set as well, which I do enjoy, and a new set of cultists, the Pnakotic Brotherhood, who function slightly differently to the regular cultists in that engaging them adds doom to them, and their stats are buffed for each point of doom on them. So we have a lot of cultists gathering doom to themselves, and each card in the agenda deck only has a threshold of 6. Added to this, when you advance the agenda, you might well be adding doom to begin proceedings. Added to this, there is a new treachery card, Conspiracy of Blood, which lowers the threshold by 1 until you parlay with a cultist. It’s just brutal, but the whole thing works so well together that I can’t help but love it!

The big change about this one, though, is that we have three act decks in play, and the text of all of them is considered in play. There’s a lot to keep track of, but the scenario just acts like it is one giant investigation, and as such it works beautifully – yes, there’s a lot going on, but it doesn’t feel particularly hectic or anything. Instead, we’re faced with what feels very much like a board game version of the game, as we move around the fairly static locations and choose our path to investigate. I like this a lot, because it feels like we can actually play the game, rather than it continually surprising us with new locations and stuff.

That’s not to say that there are no surprises. Each act deck symbolises a strand of the investigation – looking for Harlan, looking for Alejandro, and looking for the relic itself – and the decks are built based on earlier story choices that we have made. This really gives it great replayability, I must say! As the investigation progresses, we meet folks who turn out to be enemies, and so have to defeat them to triumph in the end. I think the scenario wasn’t particularly difficult in this respect, the most annoying aspect (for me) was the inclusion of the Nightgaunt deck, as I really hate those guys! But I love an Arkham teeming with cultists, and the opportunity to uncover a conspiracy, and I think this scenario really delivered on that front!

In the end, I was able to complete all three of the act decks with two rounds of doom to spare, so recovered Alejandro, the Relic of Ages, and Ichtaca is still on side. Turns out, we’re going back to the jungle to restore the relic, so at the end of the game there was another opportunity to resupply ourselves. I have no idea whether taking a blanket along this time will be of any use, but between the two investigators, I have a decent spread of all the available items now, except for the pick axe, so let’s see whether that’ll turn out to be an almighty blunder!

The next scenario is The Boundary Beyond, and we’re in Mexico City as we try to get some information from Alejandro’s academic buddies. Something doesn’t feel quite right, though, and soon the modern-day locations start to be replaced by their ancient equivalents. The fabric of reality seems to be tearing, and the past is starting to intrude into the present, quite literally!!

This was a very interesting scenario to me. The exploration deck is made up of two versions of these ancient locations, and if you’re at a location that has a matching symbol to one that you draw from that deck, you travel to it, placing that card on top of your current location. However, there’s a 1/6 chance that you’ll draw the right card, not accounting for the added treachery cards, so you can actually spend a lot of wasted time trying to find that location. The idea is great, but the fact that you’re trying to make it happen, in-game, while the story makes it sound more like a disaster movie where you have no control over it, I did feel like this was a bit of a fail, overall. Perhaps if the locations were in the encounter deck, and you replaced them but took a sanity hit if it happened to the location where your investigators are, it might have worked better (though I feel like that’s been done already…)

To add insult to injury, the Harbinger of Valusia turns up again in this one, albeit still with the same amount of damage as when we left her. What a nightmare! Of course, I love recurring elements like this, but it did make for a difficult climax as the Harbinger was at the location where we need to be to advance the Act deck.

After the excitement of the temporal distortion, we have another Interlude where our supplies become important once more. I found that I didn’t mind it this time around, probably because there wasn’t anything quite so horrible coming my way! But we then leave the city behind, and venture once more into the jungle…

Heart of the Elders is one of the more bizarre scenarios for this game, for sure! Within the encounter cards are three distinct decks, and they’re all split off as we first explore the jungle around the mouth of a mysterious cave, before then delving into the cave to see just what we can see. I get it, of course – depending on the outcome to the last scenario, you have the possibility to actually skip the first of the two mini-scenarios, so it’s clear that the developers wouldn’t want to make a dud scenario when this was still in the monthly release model.

The second of these mini-scenarios was really interesting, as the choice of supplies that we’ve brought along was really informing the gameplay, such as locations having effects like taking damage unless you’ve brought a rope, etc. I think this is what I like as regards the supplies theme – so far, it’s been fairly limited in-game to allowing us to look at the Exploration deck if we have a compass, or somesuch, but otherwise these things have been confined to the book-keeping sections of the campaign. Hopefully they’ll take on yet more importance to the actual scenario as time moves on!

Not since Path to Carcosa have I not understood what it is that I’m trying to do, but here I think there is a level of obfuscation that feels similar to The Circle Undone, where I ended up siding with the Silver Twilight Lodge and “winning” before the campaign was truly over. This time, I have a relic, and I’m returning it to the jungle, along with an Aztec lady and a Mexican academic. After delving into the cave, I end up discovering a portal to Yoth, where several Yithians come out and said academic casually tells them to take my brains! What the?!

Okay, so from reading Lovecraft I know that the Yithians are on the friendlier end of the spectrum when it comes to extraterrestrial beings, but it still feels like a betrayal, and I kinda wish that I hadn’t tried to rescue him now! I know that it’s easy to say at this point, but I did feel like there was something up with Alejandro during the initial scenarios, but I guess it’s too late to worry now. It’s going to be interesting to see where we’re headed next, anyway!

So scenario five is bonkers, but I still find this campaign kinda fascinating. It’s definitely harder than I was expecting, but I don’t think it’s as merciless yet as many people seemed to make out back in the day. I mean, the treacheries are so annoying, and some enemies can be just brutal, but I think I’ve got a really good investigator duo in Ursula and Lily, as I have high investigation and high evade, and high combat abilities. Luckily, willpower hasn’t been a big issue so far, but with Lily having a lot of mystic cards in her deck, there are ways and means there.

Overall, I seem to be doing quite well, and I’m getting a good amount of experience to level my investigators up – in total, I’ve now gained 24 experience points, and while I have been taking the opportunity to level up cards regularly, I still have 11 points unspent following the last two scenarios. I think it’s curious that we’re headed to an Other World after the third mythos pack of the cycle, as historically these things were saved for the finale, but I wonder if that means we could potentially have even more weirdness to come? At any rate, I think it’s a decent stopping point to regroup and refuel, and I’ve also passed the threshold for the next Discipline for Lily Chen, which is quite exciting!

Star Wars: The Card Game – a renaissance

Hey everybody,
For game day today, I’m once more going to talk about the Star Wars LCG, my new-found obsession, something that I never thought I’d say again! I was really into this game back when it first came out, but despite forcing several different people to play it with me, nobody really wanted to play it much, so it ended up being shunted into the attic and just left there. However, after a passing comment to Jemma about it when we were re-watching the original trilogy over Easter, she’s proven to be more receptive than literally anybody else I’ve ever talked about it with! So we had a game last Saturday and, while it wasn’t exactly brilliant, it’s most definitely promising!

I’d already put together 6 decks, one for each faction, very much in the spirit of just mashing objective sets together and hoping for a good time. Well, I suppose some thought did go into them, but even so. Jemma decided she wanted to play as the Empire, so I decided I would stick to form and go with the Rebels, rather than either of the other two light-side factions.

Now, I’m going to say this right now: this game can be very confusing, even for seasoned card game players. For someone like my wife, who is not all that into Star Wars, and isn’t really a card gamer whatsoever, I think I lost her almost immediately with my explanation of how the game works. There is so much to think about, and there is a lot that is different from other games, that it can be quite a minefield to negotiate. She also insisted on playing it as normally as possible, so we had the whole Force Struggle thing, Edge Battles, no open hands, etc etc. I think she grew frustrated quite early on, and I began to feel like it was going to be a waste of time.

As the game went on, though, I think she got into things a little. The rules around paying for cards, and refreshing cards, all of that seemed to go quite smoothly after a while, and as so often happens with this game, it did come down to the wire. I think I made one mis-play that meant Jemma won on her next turn, rather than me dealing one additional point of damage to the third dark side objective to win (I’d played a card on it to allow me to draw cards when it produced resources, and so held back a bit as I wanted the card draw – but the Death Star dial was at 10 and was ticking on twice per turn, so…)

The bright spot on all of this is that Jemma has agreed that there is a pain barrier to go through in order to learn a new game, and just because you don’t enjoy the first run through doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ever play it again. I’d thought that perhaps we should have played other card games first – even going back to Magic for a time – but anyway. I think we’re tentatively going to be playing the game every other week, in an effort for her to get into it (and for me to get back into it, I suppose!)

I can’t say that the Rebel Alliance is my favourite faction to play. That was in part due to the fact that I wasn’t drawing very many good cards, I suppose, but I have a feeling that the rebels play better with some of the fancier cards from later cycles, particularly when you bring in the Pilot mechanic. In an effort to keep things straightforward, though, I was trying to keep things fairly basic, with obvious plays that help to play off each other.

I think we had a couple of mistakes, namely that Jemma was focusing cards like Tarkin to generate resources, then also using him to attack me, but there was quite the situation set up whereby she was able to one-shot my objectives thanks to Tarkin making them -1 defence, and Orbital Bombardment giving every unit an additional blast icon, which made the Death Squadron Star Destroyer a beast. So between the good plays from across the table, and my own lacklustre cards being drawn from the Rebel deck, I think I was lucky to be able to do anything in the way of damage, really!

I am glad that Jemma has agreed to play it again, though – and she seems to want to get into it, I think, although that may be wishful thinking on my part! The fact that she won notwithstanding, I think when card plays like that come together, and it becomes quite clear what you need to do to play the game, it can be quite exciting. I’ve been re-examining my Rebel deck, and have yet to really come up with any combinations like that. Which might, of course, be the point. If I can get a number of fighters out, I should be able to deal a fair bit of blast damage, but on the whole I have a lot of pretty average stuff, and not a great deal of obvious plays. But then, I suppose that could be the idea of the Rebels being a rag-tag bunch, and it might be symbolic of the fact they aren’t able to bring overwhelming firepower to bear. I don’t have any of the capital ships included in the deck, but I do think that further down the line I might be switching out some objective sets. Not for the purposes of power-gaming, of course, but more for variety – I quite like the look of the Walex Blissex set, but I currently have no space for him.

On this note, I think the deckbuilding is one of the more fascinating aspects of this game, and I really enjoy the fact that you don’t just replace cards on a one-for-one basis. It really makes you think about how they’re going to work within the deck, even if you don’t have a plan for the deck as a whole just yet! It’s something that I particularly like in the Jedi deck that I’ve enjoyed playing with (when I had the opportunity!) Due to the way Edge Battles and Force struggles work, I think there’s always a use for a card, whether you throw away something you deem “worthless” for its pips in the Edge Battle, or whether that unit whose only worth comes from a “when played” trigger, commit him to the Force and leave him off to the side. It’s a really well-designed game, and I think this is really evident when it becomes difficult to build a deck due to the embarrassment of riches!

So, let’s talk about the decks for a minute. The Rebel Alliance deck doesn’t have any duplicated objective sets, which does mean that it lacks somewhat in consistency. Looking through the cards in the deck, there isn’t a lot in the way of duplication either – a couple of Twist of Fate cards, a couple of Hidden Outpost cards, and a couple of Rebel Assault cards. There are a lot of starfighters – a couple of X-Wings, some B-Wings, an A-Wing and a Y-Wing, and there are a lot of the kind of generic trooper types.

There is a slight theme that comes out from inclusion of several Yavin-IV cards, although it’s only slight, and I think it only really works off having General Dodonna out to draw cards off it. I think there are a total of six objective sets that form what I’m considering to be the core of this deck, with a myriad of starfighters and the like. The remaining four are all candidates that are, to some extent or another, ripe for swapping out – the Mon Mothma set, the Leia set, the General Madine set, and the Winter set. Leia and Mon Mothma however are there for their iconic status, and Madine is a very useful resource generator. Winter, however, is simply there because I love the character. So it’s a thematic deck from the point of view that it shows us a lot of the Rebellion, not because it will play the game necessarily well! I do want to play with it some more before I go changing too much up, as I think it will be instructional to see how things work out. However, I can see myself going much more heavily into the whole starfighter / Pilot thing, rather than having the mix of commandos and spies that is in there currently.

By contrast, while the Empire deck only has one duplicated objective set (the Tarkin set), there is a much more general feel of cross-pollination somehow, as themes like recurring troopers come out fairly well, and the aforementioned play with making that star destroyer into an objective-killer. It’s interesting because that combo wasn’t something that had occurred to me when building the deck, but clearly is something that comes out quite well.

Now, I mentioned in my previous blog about this game how I had stopped buying Force packs after the fourth cycle, so there are two cycles of cards that I never picked up back in the day. Well, as will come to a surprise to nobody, I’m sure, I have now started trying to find these packs, and have managed to get a hold of six, between the Opposition and the Alliances cycles. I think I might be struggling to get at least one of them, as there were a set of new affiliation cards that were seemingly snapped up and so have disappeared from the market, but I do have some hope that I’ll be able to get a decent number of these things before too long. It’s exciting to think that there are some cards in these packs featuring characters from Rogue One, and even the Rebels stuff, as I have recently started to watch that show again.

As I also mentioned last time, I do like the fact that the card pool is now a finite resource from which to draw, and so there is a real prospect that everything will see play, as decks are tweaked. Of course, it’s also possible that decks might stay the same forever, but even if Jemma has no inclination to deck-build, I think I’ll be tinkering for a long time to come, as I swap out the Leia objective set for something else, and so on.

Before I draw this to a close, I also wanted to briefly mention the fact that we currently don’t have any kind of Star Wars card game in general circulation. The situation with FFG at the moment is very odd, and I think I need to take a look into what’s going on there before I begin a massive speculation, however we have Legion (a tabletop miniatures game now outsourced), X-Wing (another miniatures game, also, I believe, outsourced), and the RPG (yet again, outsourced). I don’t really know if FFG have the licence to make Star Wars games anymore, but given how Asmodee seem to be trying to run the company into the ground, it wouldn’t surprise me. I have read that there are still plans for board and card games into 2023, but as that article went up around the same time as the world started locking down for Covid, I would imagine that such plans have been well and truly pushed back, as production schedules scramble to get back on track. Whether we will ever see another card game will remain to be seen, though it will be interesting to see how such a thing could be implemented, given the well-defined eras of Star Wars and so on. It strikes me as really weird, though, how there just isn’t a Star Wars card game being made anymore. I’ll need to take a better look into this kind of thing.

At any rate, I’m just really glad that I’ll be able to play the LCG once again!

Games, Games, Games!

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


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

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

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

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

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

Moving on!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Forgotten Age

Hey everybody,

After the surprising turn of events at Innsmouth, I’ve decided to go much further afield for my next Arkham Horror LCG campaign, to the jungles of Mexico in fact! It’s time to embark on another epic journey, as Ursula Downs and Lily Chen take on the snake people!

The Forgotten Age is the third deluxe expansion for the game, and introduces a couple of interesting elements to the overall game experience. To start with, both of the scenarios in the expansion feature a mechanic called Explore, which replaces the traditional board-style layout of locations with a deck of locations and treachery cards. It’s very interesting, as it mimics the idea of being on an expedition really well. You might be lucky and draw the locations you need that will help you to gain clues, but then again, you might not!

Somewhat linked to this is Supplies, a seemingly arbitrary decision at the start of the campaign for investigators to bring certain things with them, such as medicines, provisions, a map, binoculars, etc. Then, based on what you have, you can scout a little ahead in the Explore deck, looking for the locations and putting the treacheries at the bottom of the deck.

There is also a new Vengeance keyword, which works much like a negative Victory. It doesn’t negate Victory, but cards with Vengeance X also go into the Victory display, and buff some enemies or treacheries (or even mythos token effects) the more of them there are. It pays to avoid killing Vengeance enemies, but it can be tricky to keep them at bay…

Alert is a new keyword that acts a little bit like Retaliate, allowing the enemy to attack you if you fail an Evade test. I’ve read that the addition of new ways for enemies to fight you, coupled with a seemingly arbitrary system of reward and punishment based on what Supplies you took, has been the main cause for this campaign receiving so much negative press. I think that’s unfair, as so far I have no reason to hate these mechanics; they’re basically a new aspect of the game for me, and something that will go a long way to make this campaign feel different.

I’m taking a pair of investigators about whom I’m really excited. Ursula Downs was originally published in this expansion, of course, and Lily Chen came in the recent Edge of the Earth expansion, another exotic adventure mystery!! I’m definitely excited to be using the two of them, and I’m looking forward to seeing how their decks will grow over the campaign.

1. The Untamed Wilds

This scenario is quite a standard explore type of mystery, showcasing the new mechanics while otherwise being nothing massively new. We’re on an expedition into the jungles of Mexico that has been funded by Miskatonic University, and led by the renowned historian Alejandro Vela, to go in search of the Eztli, a somewhat mythical lost race. We build the map as we go, thanks to the explore mechanic, which I am a big fan of. A bit like we saw in The Circle Undone, there is a fail forward element here where, regardless of the outcome, we end up in the same narrative point at the start of the second scenario.

There’s then an interlude that pretty much follows which supplies the investigators chose to take with them, and something that I found particularly shocking was the fact that, as nobody thought to bring a blanket, we’ve now got 1 mental trauma from all the tossing and turning!

2. The Doom of Eztli

We’ve made our way through the jungle, and we’ve found a strange temple that seems to thrum with power. It is also guarded by horrible snake creatures. However, we’re trying to find a central chamber, the resting place of a powerful relic. Just what has this Alejandro got us into, eh?

The objective here is to find a hidden room, the Chamber of Time, and once that has been investigated the chamber re-orientates itself, and the whole temple complex itself, into a linear path, and the investigators basically have to escape. Classic Indiana Jones style adventure, including a race through a crumbling temple! Somewhat on theme, my investigators basically burst through in the final round, happily accepting a fairly hefty chunk of damage from attacks of opportunity in order to escape. You could just picture them both leaping from the exit, clothing torn and covered in dust…

I’m really enjoying this one so far. In fact, I’m a little bit mystified as to why it has had such bad press online, as it’s a really good start to the proceedings, in my view. Sure, the first scenario is a little tame, but I suppose I have been spoilt a bit by playing later campaigns that have more going on, maybe.

Pre-Colombian America is something that I really enjoy, as well, so I’m really excited to see where we go next! The decks have already been levelled up a bit, and I seem to have thrown in my lot with the native woman Ichtaca, putting myself somewhat at odds to Alejandro. I can’t help wondering if that was a good idea though, as I’m already thinking that I may be headed for catastrophe over an apparent obsession with the relic that was pulled from the ruins. I’ll say this for the writers on this game – they’re very good at making me that little bit paranoid about my game choices!!

The Conspiracy Continues…

Hey everybody,
It’s Tuesday, which means it’s game day here at spalanz.com, and today I am finally back with The Innsmouth Conspiracy for Arkham Horror LCG! I know, it’s been an age! Well, three months. But still! The last time I played this game was November, when I played the third scenario, but neglected to keep any photos of the game as it progressed. Even so, I think it’s time to see where I’m up to with the campaign!

3. In Too Deep
In Too Deep was released around the time this game took off – and when I say took off, I mean you couldn’t buy packs of it anywhere. In Too Deep was the first casualty, for me, and it took me months to get hold of it – I think it might actually have been the case that the rest of the campaign had been released by then, but anyway.

I really liked this scenario. We have the town of Innsmouth laid out before us once again, though the town has been invaded by “foul things from the depths of the sea”, and of course we need to get across town to hook up with Agent Dawson. The locals and these foul things have erected barriers in the streets though, impeding our progress, and so we need to wend our way through and remove these where we can.

For some reason, I don’t have any pictures of me playing through this one, which is quite sad really, as I seem to recall it was a good one! There is something of a timebound mechanic, as always, so while at first I had hoped to explore a bit of the town, as time goes on more enemies are shuffled into the deck, and the town comes more and more under control of these mutant hybrids.

Campaign Log
The only memories I recovered this time were a meeting with Joe Sergeant, and a jailbreak. I managed to earn a total of 5VP, but I can’t spend it yet. Interestingly, if you were defeated or made it through, the same resolution is applied at the end. I suppose it’s another of those fail forward situations, though, where we need to keep the story moving!

4. Devil Reef
At long last, I’m back in Innsmouth! It’s been a total of three months on hiatus, but here I am again, battling with the deep ones as I try to work out what’s going on. Devil Reef is another of these back-in-time moments, much like the second scenario (I wonder if they’re going to do this throughout, so each even-numbered scenario recalls more memories?) We’ve decided to go out to Devil Reef, and Agent Dawson is along for the ride this time.

This scenario is another of those build-the-map types where we start out with a few locations to travel to, but they build out from there. The objective is to find three keys, which are linked to three artifacts, which are to be discovered at three special locations, which spawn in turn from three of the five starting locations. So it’s very much a discovery type of adventure, and with there being two dead-ends, it does mean you either get lucky, or you waste your time. More excitingly, we’re on a boat asset card, which we use to travel around.

Campaign Log
I managed to discover the artifacts, though the Terror of Devil reef still lives. 3 more VPs are now mine, and I can spend them once more – again, there’s that sense of the game really staggering how we level up this time around. I like it! The subsequent Interlude, however, reinforces the idea that we’re only recovering memories, and each of the artifacts needs to be recovered properly, so it seems we’re next off to Falcon Point Lighthouse…

The storyline is definitely interesting, although part of me does feel a little bit like it is straining this time to provide a narrative around one of HP Lovecraft’s most famous stories. I am a big sucker for wanting to recreate the board game in card game form, and have delighted previously with things like the Dunwich Legacy, but here, things do seem to be a little bit forced. I think perhaps that’s down to the way it is presented though, as flashbacks come and we attempt to piece together what on earth is happening. Maybe when I’ve gone further in the campaign, I’ll change my mind? For now, though, I am delighted to have the blessed/cursed mechanic, I’m delighted that we’re in Innsmouth, but I’m just not a hundred percent made up on whether I really like this one…

Back to the Underhive

Hey everybody,
Last week, I had a game of Necromunda for the first time in ages, my Delaque vs James and his Orlocks! The last time we played was well over six months ago, and not only have we both had another child each since then, but we’ve played a bit of 40k, so it was very much a case of getting back into the rules, etc.

I’m very pleased to say, though, that it went really well, and didn’t seem to take a great deal of time to get back into the swing of things. I think the biggest thing, for me, was remembering all the little bits and pieces like accuracy modifiers, ammo checks, and so on. But once we got into it, we managed to get pretty much through three unhurried rounds where I seemed to have amazing dice rolls, and systematically eliminated the Orlocks until only the leader remained.

It was pretty epic, in fairness, that final battle. James charged his leader into mine, whereupon his servo-claw missed, but my shock staff did some damage. My champion then came in with his web gauntlet and webbed him, then another ganger came along and took off another wound. With him webbed and seriously injured on the ground, we called it a night. But throughout the game, it surprised me how things went.

We were playing Hit and Run, from the Dark Uprising book, and I was the Defender, so set up in the centre of the battlefield. The Orlocks were then arrayed fairly close-in around me, as their guns were better in short range, but it did mean that I had a lot of gangers who could support each other and eliminate fighters where one would shoot to pin them, then the other could charge in and deliver a coup de grace. I think I took out three fighters in this way, and a fourth Orlock was lost to stray shots from friendly fire.

The bottle test was brutal though, as two fighters just immediately fled at the start of the third round, leaving just two active Orlocks left, whereas I had 8 remaining fighters through sheer dumb luck and good dice rolls, so I never had to test!

A learning point for us was close combat, however, where we just assumed a reaction attack would mean the fighter also activates. But it seems the internet tells me otherwise! Seems very powerful, if a Ready fighter is charged, so gets to fight back (if he survives, I guess!) and then can fight as well, though of course if the fighter who charged survives a second attack, he too can then make a reaction attack, and on it goes? Seems like a proper scrap, I kinda like it!

I was trying out one of the new Psy-Gheists, as well, equipped with a Psychoteric Wyrm exotic beast. The psychic element of Necromunda is quite interesting, I think, especially for Delaque, where their native psykers have a high Willpower stat to start with. Psychic Tests are done on Willpower, which is a 2D6 check, but the Psy-Gheists have a Wil of 8+. I don’t think I managed to get it off at all, and ended up using the Wyrm to bite the ankles of one of the Orlocks to pin him, then swooped in with another ganger for the coup de grace.

For the next outing, I’m definitely going to try and build a few more generic ganger-types. A lot of my current 10-strong painted gang have special weapons, as I did kinda go to town a little with the Forge World upgrades, so I’d like to get them a little more playable, and a little more normal! I am going to get the upgrade set so that I have more shotguns and stuff, but I think I need to try and be more circumspect in what I’m doing, as I’d like to have a good setup.

We’re going to play another game before launching into a campaign, which should be very interesting. I’m thinking it might be good to go for more of a straight-up Dominion Campaign as our first taste, but we’ll no doubt be talking about it in the coming weeks and making a better decision then. It’s very exciting though, I have to say!

The End of the Horror

Hey everybody,
Tuesday is of course game day here at spalanz.com, and a Yuletide Tuesday can only mean one thing – let’s play Eldritch Horror! It’s been a wild ride over the last few years, but we’ve reached the final expansion for that tremendous game: welcome to my Christmastime review of Masks of Nyarlathotep! This big box expansion was released three years ago now, and has been languishing untouched for far too long – so I am very pleased to have finally gotten round to playing a game with it! Up to now, though, I have only played one game, so this is very much a first impressions sort of blog, rather than an exhaustive review!

The expansion comes in a big box, but it’s worth noting right off the bat that there is no side board in this one. Curious, for many, especially because the content is only slightly more expansive than that of a small box expansion, but I suppose the amount of work that has gone into this box needs to be taken into account. So let’s start looking at what we get for our money!

Comparisons are bound to be made with Arkham Horror, of course, being the former big-box boardgame set in this universe, and it’s interesting to me that there is the inclusion in here of a mechanic that is lifted straight from the older game – personal stories. These are small cards that you take control of at the start of the game for your investigator – only two cards per investigator, though the entire game line is represented here, going right back to the core set, so don’t worry if you think someone might be missed! The front of the first card has a copy of that investigator’s picture, then the back tells you what they’re trying to do. When that condition has been met, you get to move to the front of the second card, which will give you a permanent boost effect for the remainder of the game. The story also has a second condition to watch for, however, which is usually determined by the game itself; if that is met, then you flip the second card and gain a permanent burden instead. For example, if Daisy Walker takes a rest action and spends 5 clues, she gains her permanent boost, which is to gain a free Tome asset, and in addition she reduces the sanity loss from Tome assets by 1. However, if she’s reduced to 1 health or 1 sanity, she gains the amnesia condition (or discards 1 clue or 1 spell if she already has the amnesia condition). All of the cards include their respective expansion symbol, too, so you know where they came from (and can sort them into those expansions, if you so wish).

It’s a very nice side-quest effect to have as part of the game, though I always feel like these things take something of a back seat to the actual game itself, especially in the game I was playing, which was against the new Ancient One, Nyarlathotep himself! There are two Ancient Ones in the box, which I guess bumps this up from a small box expansion. Nyarlathotep comes with just four mysteries, two special encounters and a wad of research encounters as we’d expect, and also a deck of four Adventures. We first saw this mechanic back in Mountains of Madness, of course, though here the Adventure is much more central to the story, as each of Nyarlathotep’s mysteries is tied to one of the Adventures, and completing that Adventure will solve the mystery. As a bit of mitigation, then, you only need to solve 2 mysteries to win, but it was a nice way to implement his Masks mechanic that is so integral to the character in other Arkham Files games. Each Adventure is linked with one of the Masks, such as the Bloated Woman or the Dark Pharaoh. The investigators are tasked with essentially stopping these cults to solve the mysteries, which I thought was a very interesting way of implementing this. I was also on the right hand side of the board for the longest time that I think I have ever played in this game! Each cult is linked to a part of the world, mainly Africa, Shanghai and Australia. Having Sefina Rousseau as one of my investigators helped in that sense, then, as she starts in Sydney after all! Nyarlathotep’s Cultists give out Corruption conditions, which allows for you to gain benefits at the expense of gathering Eldritch Tokens – if an investigator ever has tokens equal to their max sanity, they are devoured. It’s definitely an interesting mechanic, and I think this is perhaps the craziest incarnation of the Crawling Chaos that we’ve seen – he’s come a long way from being one of the simplest Ancient Ones to defeat in Arkham Horror!

The other Ancient One is Antediluvium, a reference to the Biblical flood. In game terms, we seem to be attempting to put down cultist uprisings, this time represented by a new take on the Mystic Ruins encounter deck that we last saw in the Strange Remnants small box expansion. The Ruins deck this time features encounters in Atlantis, Hyperborea, Mu and Pnakotus, so once again they’re really spreading out across the board. It’s a wonderful idea, and one that I had hoped we would see more of when Eldritch Horror first came out – the bland, numbered spaces on the board are all in specific locations, after all! There are no special encounters for Antediluvium, instead just a bunch of research encounters and the standard 6 mysteries, three of which are needed for victory. Taken side by side with Nyarlathotep, I find Antediluvium to be a little bit boring, though they are united by having the theme of international cultist rings, and I do like the new Mystic Ruins deck.

Seven new investigators join the team, rounding out the cast with a couple of new faces that were first seen in the second edition of Mansions of Madness, such as Agatha Crane and Carson Sinclair. Many of these feel like old timers now though, through their inclusion in the Arkham Horror LCG! Masks of Nyarlathotep brings the total number of investigators available for the game up to 55, which beats out Arkham Horror by 7, as it happens! There are some new monsters, including a horrific Star Vampire, and some new Epic Monsters. We get a dozen new Prelude cards to help make games of Eldritch Horror more varied and interesting, and we get three new gate tokens for the generic numbered spaces – Hyperborea, R’yleh, and Atlantis. New assets, unique assets, conditions, spells and artifacts round out the box.

One of the selling points for this box was the new campaign system, which seemed to fall pretty flat when it was released. I think that’s not entirely unfounded – a single page that describes the process doesn’t really seem a lot, after all. In a nutshell, you play six games with the same investigators, and if you’re devoured then you’re permanently out. Surviving investigators don’t come across to the next game with all possessions, but conditions do survive. It’s quite thematic, and I suppose it’s really not a bad way of doing this, but given how we’ve seen campaigns develop for other games, it does feel a bit simplistic.

That said, I don’t think I play something like Eldritch Horror for the campaign idea. I’ve said something similar when talking about the Hellboy board game a few weeks ago, but I do like the idea of a game existing on its own, and being played for the sake of the game, not as another step on the ladder, or whatever. Games of Eldritch Horror have fluctuated fairly wildly for me, either taking 1-2 hours max, or an entire evening. And I would rather keep it as a game that takes a while but one that I don’t feel it necessary to make more regular time for. I mean, I haven’t played a game of this since last year’s Dreamlands game, and that’s fine. (I mean, it isn’t, because I really enjoy it and would love to play more of it! But you know what I mean!)

As a finale to Eldritch Horror, I think it does fall a tiny bit flat. I don’t know if it was designed to be a full stop for the game, or whether there had been plans for more expansions that ended up shelved, but I think there could have perhaps been more added if it was in fact designed to finish off the product line. More generic encounters, maybe? Or more cards that allowed for mixing of expansions, much like Miskatonic Horror for the older game? I don’t really know how that could be implemented, as the Prelude mechanic seems to be a decent way of treating the whole game line as a big sandbox, but I’m sure there could be more done there. As it is, that big box does feel a little empty in comparison with other entries in the line, and that kinda makes me a bit sad for it as a whole. But this is the trap that I’ve previously warned against, and we need to take it on what is in there: Nyarlathotep is a fairly complex Ancient One, and I imagine he would have cheapened any small box by requiring so much content. It’s great to have him as part of the game, and his companion deity does provide another good opportunity to revisit the Mystic Ruins idea. We then have more of the same, in the great tradition of Eldritch Horror expansions, with the Personal Stories forming a nice little addition and gives content to the entire game series. Overall, I’m very pleased to have this stuff available for me to play with for many years to come, I suppose I just wish the game had gone out with more of a bang!

Now that I’ve explored each of the expansions for the game, I’d like to continue with covering Eldritch Horror with more gameplay style blogs, maybe with some degree of storytelling as each game unfolds. The game I played with this expansion ended up with many such storytelling points, including Sefina gaining a Dark Pact and going well down the wrong road, while Daniela really levelled herself up as a monster-hunting beast! There will no doubt be fun times ahead for the blog as I carry forth this plan, so stay tuned for this, and more!

The Conqueror Worm

For whatever reason, back when my blog was 5 and I featured Hellboy during Birthday Week, I neglected to get to the fifth trade paperback in the series, The Conqueror Worm. Which is weird, because my goodreads profile tells me that I did read it back then! When I had first got into Hellboy, this was as far as the series went, and I had wanted to relive the early 2000s with my birthday feature, but never mind – let’s correct this oversight now, in fact let’s do so twice!

Firstly, let’s talk about the comic. Back at the start of 1939, the Nazis had attempted to commune with the elder beings floating around in space, sending up a dead body for one of these monstrosities to inhabit, but the plan failed before they could recall the rocket. Well, the rocket has been spotted in 2000 and the BPRD are dispatched to investigate! Hellboy and Roger are led to Hunte Castle in Austria by a local police officer, who later turns out to be Inger von Klempt, granddaughter of Hermann von Klempt, the Nazi scientist who led the experiment in 1939. Lobster Johnson, something of a Captain America figure from the WW2-era, and believed dead when the original Nazi plot was disrupted, reappears and teams up with Roger to destroy the castle’s power generators, while Hellboy is initially tortured by von Klempt and his cybernetic Kriegaffe (war ape).

The rocket lands and a gas comes out, transforming everybody present into frog creatures. Inger has been protected against it to some extent, but when the Conqueror Worm itself emerges from the capsule and begins to devour the transformed mutants, she asks her grandfather how he could possibly hope to control the beast. Hermann tells her, after the failure of so many projects to bring about Nazi domination, he just wants to watch the death of the world as the Conqueror Worm will awaken the Ogdru Jahad. Roger is able to kill Hermann, and Lobster Johnson then uses a lightning rod to attract a massive jolt of electricity to kill the Worm. After his experiences with the BPRD, Hellboy decides to quit, and travel to Africa.

In an epilogue, Rasputin’s ghost is taunted by Hecate, who herself is inhabiting the body of Ilsa Haupstein still contained within the iron maiden. Rasputin’s plans to release the Ogdru Jahad will forever come to nothing, as the only force capable of releasing them is Hellboy’s stone right hand. Rasputin screams in defiance, to the point where his spirit shatters; Baba Yaga collects a fragment to wear in an acorn around her neck.

The book is quite glorious, I have to say. Some of the panels have such a gothic imagery that it really speaks to the search through the lower depths of Hunte Castle, and the sense of foreboding and dread as if the gargoyles are watching Hellboy’s progress. There’s something of a 90s feel to some of the panels, as the Conqueror Worm goes about his business – a lot of the colours and shading brings to mind the Dark Empire series, for me. The story is just exactly what I think of when I think of Hellboy – crazy Nazi scientists with their doomsday plots, it’s all delightfully over the top. The epilogue though, is really quite eerie – there’s a sense of the evil puppet masters, behind the scenes going over their plots, and so on. I especially liked the addition of Baba Yaga at the end, as well.

All in all, very creepy, and exactly what I like in a Hellboy story!

Secondly, I played with the Conqueror Worm expansion for the first time not too long ago, and I was really quite impressed! For years, despite having the graphic novels, Hellboy to me was Big Red going up against the Nazis and their Project Ragna Rok, thanks to the movie portrayal. While the frog monsters make sense within the board game universe, it’s still really quite special when you get more into this side of the Hellboy universe. The expansion features five types of Nazis, plus the eponymous Worm himself, as well as new scenery and rooms, and the associated card decks, along with two new playable agents: Lobster Johnson and Roger.

I’ve played The Cold Shoulder scenario, and I found it to be really thematic for this particular storyline. I’ve talked about it before, but there are very few “big” stories within the Hellboy comics – for the most part, two parters are as long as things get. So it’s nice to see a big story like Conqueror Worm get the big expansion treatment here. The game starts out with the agents exploring the hallways of the castle until they come across a point of interest, which (spoiler alert) reveals the laboratory where the Nazis are containing the Worm itself. With this tile placed, the Confrontation begins, and in order to win you’ll need to place charges in specific rooms and blow the castle up. While the Worm only has a move characteristic of 1, that miniature is huge, and it’s really quite frightening to see it coming across the board at you! As it happens, I somehow managed to block it in a chokepoint with a piece of terrain, not sure if that was played correctly, but it did slow it down enough that I was then able to move through and place the remaining charges to rig the castle, and get out before it all went boom. Poor Lobster Johnson did actually almost give his life for the cause, though I was able to heal him enough before the final showdown so that we all made it through!

This was my first game with three agents, and I think it definitely helped, as I was able to do a lot on my turns, and the game overall felt like it went much faster for having those increased options. Of course, I’m not sure if I’d always want to do that because the game does scale up for more agents being on the board, but still, it was a lot of fun, and I thought this was perhaps the first time when I felt like the game was a real co-op experience.

The Hellboy board game is truly shaping up to be one of my favourites here, and in recent weeks I think I’ve now doubled the number of plays with it. I think it helps that we’re in that season when it’s good to hunker down with a game, and despite all of my rantings and ravings about Kickstarter games here on the blog, there is something quite exciting about opening up a massive box that is choc-full of trays and trays of miniatures. The Hellboy theme is just the icing on the cake, really!

I do have Hellboy volume 6, and I think I may have investigated one of the stories in there, but I’m soon going to be in uncharted territories with the comic book series. I’m hoping to increase the library there soon, branching out into the BPRD series as well, to see what that’s all about. As for the board game, I definitely want to see more of the BPRD Archives expansion, and start putting together my own case files, as well as trying out more from the core set. The only thing that kinda gives me pause on that is just the sheer amount of frogs… Having all of the Kickstarter goodness does make me feel like mixing things up with some of those other miniatures for some variety, you know? There are suggested rules for that, as well, so I’ll have to take a look into the wider game and see just how I can bring that about. I have clearly been spoiled…!