The Voice of Isengard

Hey everybody!
Tuesday means just one thing here at spalanz.com, it’s game day! Today’s blog returns to Middle Earth, and the next deluxe expansion in the series of blogs I’ve been writing with my garbled thoughts on the Lord of the Rings LCG: today, we’re braving the Voice of Isengard!

The Voice of Isengard

The third deluxe expansion for Lord of the Rings LCG, The Voice of Isengard marks a bit of a turning point for me with this game. For the first three “seasons” of the game, I’d been playing fairly often, and have logged plenty of plays with all of the adventure packs up to this point. While there had been some odd moments where I’d thought my love for the game could have wavered (Watcher in the Water, I’m looking at you), I think the fourth deluxe marks a significant level of difficulty-increase, which in turn has seen me move away from the game to some degree. That’s not to say that I dislike this game by any means, and I still snap up the adventure packs and deluxe expansions upon their release. However, I find that I’m somewhat less inclined to actually sit down and play with them upon their release, and I actually have two cycles of cards that I haven’t yet played with, at the time I’m writing this.

I’ll probably come back to this point later in the blog; let’s actually take a look at the contents and the quests!

As always, there are two new heroes and a slew of new player cards in the box, as well as three new quests to play through that set up the following Ring-maker cycle. The player cards are headed up by the new Éomer and Gríma heroes, Éomer is actually pretty great, and quickly found his way into my Rohan deck as I began to re-tool it for spirit and tactics. He’s great for attacking, especially as how his ability gives him +2 attack when a character leaves play. Use an Escort from Edoras during the quest phase to buff your willpower, then he’ll leave and buff Éomer during the next attack phase – excellent! Ride to Ruin is another useful card to have if you have some cheap allies you don’t mind getting rid of! While probably not as deep as dwarves, the Rohan deck type is nevertheless rife with all manner of fantastic cards that work really well together.

The Voice of Isengard also brings the third and greatest Istari to the game: Saruman! Yes, I’m a big Saruman fan, I find him extremely compelling as a character, and had been looking forward to seeing him arrive. As the main game is set somewhere in the nebulous early part of Fellowship of the Ring, Saruman hasn’t actually fallen to evil, and so works fine as being a player card. However, he does showcase one of the new mechanics from this expansion, Doomed X. Whenever a card with this keyword enters play, each player raises his threat by X. These cards are usually quite powerful, and Saruman is definitely a prime example of this. With three willpower, five attack, four defense and four hit points for only three resources, Saruman is an exceptional ally. Furthermore, when he enters play, you get to remove a non-unique enemy or location in the staging area from the game for as long as he remains in play. Like the original Gandalf, Saruman does unfortunately leave play at the end of the round, but this effect can be incredibly useful, as you can get just enough time to set yourself up to deal with something potentially game-ending. The price is high, for sure – raising your threat by three can put you in a precarious position, so it’s not to be done lightly. But paired with some of those Valour cards from the Angmar Awakened cycle? He’s definitely got his place in decks, that’s for sure!

The encounter cards are varying degrees of awful, and most of them showcase the new Time X keyword. Whenever a card with Time X is revealed, you place resource tokens on it equal to X, and at the beginning of each refresh phase, you remove one counter. When there are no tokens left, something will happen, usually something terrible. There are also cards that remove tokens, which add to your woes! The mechanic lends a sense of urgency to the game, though, something that the designers said was a deliberate method of changing the meta, such as it is, for the game.

The Fords of Isen

The Voice of Isengard

The first scenario sees you trying to help a group of Rohirrim warriors defend the small Islet from fierce Dunlendings – more accurately, they’re protecting Gríma among them. The fact that there is a Gríma hero card in this box led to a similar situation to the Faramir business in Against the Shadow, though I must say I’ve never played with Gríma among my fellowship, so have never been too concerned by this!

The object of the quest is basically to outlast the awful encounter deck, and defeat the three stages of the quest. In addition to the Time X keyword on each quest card (the first of which can discard Gríma from play, causing you to lose at the first hurdle!) there are a significant number of effects that punish you for having cards in hand. This was another conscious decision by the designers, to combat strategies that had made it into the meta, and thematically reflects the hatred the Wild Men of Dunland have for the richer, more resourceful men of Rohan. I tend not to use too many card draw effects in my decks, but there are also a lot of mechanics in the encounter set that force you to draw cards, adding to the misery!

The Fords of Isen is a very urgent scenario, forcing you to breeze through it quickly or else die horribly, face down in the muck.

To Catch An Orc

The Voice of Isengard

The next scenario requires the players to capture the orc, Mugash, at the behest of Saruman himself. Mugash has been leading raids into the valley of Isengard, but Saruman believes he has vital intelligence about Mordor, and so wishes to question him. At the start of the scenario, you are forced to put the top 20 cards of your own deck aside – copies of Mugash’s Guard and a single copy of Mugash himself are then shuffled together, and distributed among these out-of-play player decks.

Over the course of the game, you will encounter locations with the Searches X keyword – this allows you to search through X cards of your out-of-play deck, as you try to find the leader of the Orc tribe. You also get to choose one of those cards to keep and discard the rest, while placing any enemies into the staging area. It’s an incredibly different-feeling quest, with something of a built-in timer in the form of giving you a smaller deck to start. The mechanics of finding Mugash are quite prescriptive, but overall I think they’re really effective for providing an interesting, and engaging scenario. While the encounter deck can still be quite awful, it doesn’t feel quite so bad somehow, and overall I think this is one of my favourites.

Into Fangorn

The Voice of Isengard

The final quest takes us into Fangorn Forest, and we get to see the Ents! Despite (presumably!) capturing Mugash in the last scenario, he has since escaped his bonds, and the players pursue him into the depths of Fangorn. The Forest is alive, however, and the Ents are not happy with the players’ intrusion.

This is another interesting scenario, with some very interesting mechanics. Mugash is now an Objective, and the players must capture him to win the game. If he is captured when you defeat the first stage, then you progress to the second stage and attempt to keep hold of the Orc chieftain while putting 12 progress there. If he has escaped into the encounter deck, you instead advance to stage three and remain there until you find him again, then advancing to stage two and keeping hold of him until the end. It reminds me of a few earlier scenarios, where the possibility of losing an Objective can make the game suddenly a lot more arduous.

However, the encounter deck itself is no picnic, filled as it is with the Huorn! The Ents of Fangorn have the Hinder keyword, which basically annoys the hell out of you. Rather than attacking, these enemies remove progress from the quest when they are engaged with you, and with high toughness and high wounds, these enemies are not going to be picked off quickly! Indeed, the whole quest seems designed to slow you down, while the quest cards themselves continue to make use of the Time X mechanic. It’s actually a pretty fun, thematic scenario, but my god is it disheartening to actually play through!


Each of the quests in Voice of Isengard has something different to offer, and each is highly thematic to play through. While it’s an expansion that I’d wanted for a long time, being such a fan of Saruman and this area of Middle Earth as a whole, I nevertheless found it to be a little less than satisfying, because there no longer felt like the option to just enjoy the quest, as you had to rush through or whatever. All quests in Lord of the Rings LCG have a race element to them, of course, as you attempt to outlast your threat reaching 50, but moreso than ever, we’re now being forced into a very specific play style if we want to go through these newer quests. I get that the more competitive elements of the community had been asking for this since the game released, but I do get the impression that a fundamental shift occurred somewhere here, whereby the main focus of development for Lord of the Rings LCG was no longer exploring Tolkien’s world in all of its glorious abundance, but instead on nuts-and-bolts mechanics of flipping cards over and mathematics.

I still play Lord of the Rings LCG, don’t get me wrong, and I still love it, but I don’t find myself returning to these newer quests nearly as often as I return for just one more stroll through Mirkwood or the Long Dark of Khazad-dûm.

Retiring from Conquest

Hey everybody,
Recently, I’ve been looking over the games that I have, and checking through several of those that I have decks set up for the LCGs I follow, and have decided to retire all of those from Warhammer Conquest. The game died when FFG and GW parted ways, officially at the end of February this year, but the nails were firmly in the coffin back in September when the announcement came. The game was actually pretty popular at my local game store, and I had hopes that I’d still be able to get in some games, including trying out some new decks, but Arkham Horror LCG has definitely supplanted it as the LCG of choice, and I’m left with rather a lot of cards that I’m not really doing all that much with! But then, I’m kinda used to having games like this…

Fun fact: Anrakyr was the first #Necrons character I painted! #WarhammerConquest

A post shared by Mark (@marrrkusss) on

Before I dissolve all of the decks I have set up, however, I wanted to record for posterity here the Necron deck that I built up a year ago when the Necron box first came out, and subsequently tweaked with a couple of the cards from the subsequent Planetfall cycle. It did quite well for me on the couple of trips out I had with it, so I thought it’d be useful to have in case I ever find some fellow hipsters and decide to get back into this down the line!

Anrakyr the Traveller
Pyrrhian Eternals (5)
Slumbering Tomb
Awake the Sleepers
Pyrrhian Warscythe
Harbinger of Eternity
Mandragoran Immortals
Immortal Legion
Warriors of Gidrim
Immortal Vanguard (3)
Doomsday Ark (2)
Praetorian Ancient
Lychguard Sentinel (2)
Hyperphase Sword (2)
Tomb Blade Squad (3)
Canoptek Spyder
Canoptek Scarab Swarm (3)
Hunting Acanthrites
Reanimation Protocol (2)
Drudgery (2)
Defensive Protocols (2)
Sautekh Complex (2)
Defense Battery
Ratling Deadeye
Noise Marine Zealots
Sacaellum Shrine Guard (2)
White Scars Bikers
Kroot Hunter (2)
Sybarite Marksman
Kabalite Halfborn
Saim-Hann Kinsman

There are ten out-of-faction cards included at the end here because of the subtheme Necrons have, that of enslaving other people (not something in the fluff, but whatever). There are soldier units in there for the Mandragoran Immortals to take advantage of, warriors for the Immortal Vanguard, and scouts for the Tomb Blade Squads.

Overall, it was a lot of fun to play the couple of times I got it to the table, though I think it’s quite unfortunate that the game ended with the Necrons such a comparatively under-developed faction. Of course, the enslavement mechanic means you technically have a much bigger card pool than pure-Necron, but even so… it would have been nice to have had another cycle, and see what more we can get out of the pool!

Back into gaming!

Y’know, considering board games is my most-used category on this blog, which has had over 600 posts to it at this point, I’ve recently not been doing a lot of gaming whatsoever! In fact, according to my stats over on boardgamegeek, I haven’t played a game since Christmastime, which is actually shocking! Long-time readers may recall, however, that I’ve been doing a part-time degree and, while this is now drawing to a close, the last couple of months have been particularly hectic, which likely explains a lot of this absence.

But, no more!

At the weekend, I finally managed to break the gap and play a game of Lord of the Rings LCG, just using my trusty Rohan-themed deck against the first scenario, Passage Through Mirkwood. I think it’s traditional for more people than just myself to get back into the swing of things with this scenario, usually for testing new decks but it’s also really useful for getting back into the whole world of the game itself!

Lord of the Rings LCG

As I said, I was using my tried-and-tested Rohan deck, though I hadn’t actually played the deck since November 2014! (I log all my plays on boardgamegeek, especially the decks for this game). It has been changed a little to include some of the Angmar Awakened cards, but even so, that revelation did surprise me!

The game didn’t actually last very long, when all’s said and done, anyway. I had Dúnhere out, tooled up with a Spear of the Mark (a card really made for Dúnhere) and Blade of the Gondolin, which allowed me to deal with pretty much everything in the staging area before it became a problem, and both Éomer and Théoden were essentially my questing powerhouse, beefed up with a timely Astonishing Speed to get through the quest in about seven turns overall!

Lord of the Rings LCG

There are still annoying cards to deal with here, of course, chief among them being The Necromancer’s Reach, which deals one damage to each exhausted character, but overall it can be a fairly easy scenario to play through. I’m already planning to get back to Middle Earth soon for more exciting times with the game, and I’m really looking forward to trying out some of the comparatively more recent scenarios.

In my game day blogs, I’ve been looking at the deluxe expansions and the corresponding cycles of adventure packs up to the third such cycle, Against the Shadow, and can speak with some authority on these, having played each scenario multiple times with a variety of decks. However, from the fourth deluxe, The Voice of Isengard, onwards, I’m not quite so familiar. I’m still going to continue to write the blogs, of course! I’m quite excited for the air of discovery that doing so will give me, however!

I’m also trying to play more games, in general. It was something of a new year resolution for me, and for the first three months of the year I didn’t do anything for it, so I need to get moving there, I feel. To this end, I’m intending to play at least one game per month, so at least one game day blog per month will feature this kind of session-report thing so that I can prompt myself to actually make that happen!

Lord of the Rings LCG remains my absolute favourite board game, simply because the theme is just so amazingly done. So I’m hoping that the prospect of getting back to some of the truly classic scenarios, as well as discovering what the new scenarios have to offer, will get me actually playing games again! I’m also intrigued as to what the new player cards will have to offer me…

Flashpoint!

Titan Transnational, the Goliath of the New Angeles financial market, suffers a breach of security. For twenty-three seconds, all its sysops are locked out, and all its defenses are down. Simultaneously. For those twenty-three seconds, all its logs are erased. Millions of micro-transactions take place in each fraction of each second, but for twenty-three seconds, no transactions are being logged. No one knows who owns what.

The Flashpoint cycle for Netrunner LCG sounded immense, and yet I have only recently caught up with the new packs! Terrible. While I’m currently in the process of radically down-sizing my gaming collection in preparation for moving house, Netrunner is one of those games that I keep getting drawn back to. While I haven’t paid much attention to the game since the Mumbad cycle ended last summer, I’ve recently started to get back into web design, and there’s just something about computer programming that links very strongly in my mind back to this game.

So let’s take a look!

The Flashpoint cycle is the sixth cycle of data packs for Netrunner, which is important in that Rotation is looming ever closer for the game (if you’re wondering about LCG Rotation, you can check out my blog on it here). Rotation for Netrunner is coming when the first pack of the eighth cycle hits stores, and we lose the Genesis and Spin cycles. The original article postulated Spring 2017 as the date the eighth cycle would begin but, as Red Sands is the seventh cycle for the game, we’re still at least another six months or so out. We’ve also since had the announcement of the Terminal Directive campaign that seems to attempt a sort of level-playing-field approach to the game by using only the core set and that box, so it’s certainly an interesting time for fans of the game – and definitely a good time to get back into it if, like me, you’ve been away for a while!

Anyway, enough with the tangents!

Android Netrunner Flashpoint Cycle

The cards in the cycle have a focus on credits, with the money you have in the bank determining the effects that certain cards you play will have. It’s a really interesting mechanic, and I like the fact that the theme of a bank robbery is implemented into the gameplay itself in this way. There are a couple of themes that come out of the cycle, but I thought it was particularly interesting to see just how brutal some of the Corp cards are. Whether I’m having this reaction because I’m more comfortable as the Runner, I don’t know, but it struck me when I was looking through the data packs that there were a really large number of cards that do a lot of damage to the Runner, and it feels quite harsh! There are also new Terminal Operations, which ends the action phase when they are played but provide pretty decent benefits in return. I probably need to go deeper into the card pool here, of course, but I feel that the Corp is definitely the one benefiting the most from this cycle.

Android Netrunner Flashpoint Cycle

Of course, that’s not to say the Runner doesn’t have lots of nice new toys as well! Each Corp gets a new identity, and there are four new Runners across the cycle, also – including two for the Anarch faction. While I’m usually most-drawn to the Shaper faction overall, as I love the ethos behind them, there are several exciting new Criminal cards (more shortly) and the new Null Runner is making me want to build an Anarch deck! We’ll have to see where that goes. What’s more, there are also new cards for each of the three mini-faction Runners that were introduced in Data and Destiny, which is really exciting to see! While the linked article there did say that the majority of cards these Runners would ever receive are in that expansion, it is still nice to see that they aren’t a one-time gimmick.

Android Netrunner Flashpoint Cycle

The sixth pack, Quorum, was particularly difficult to get hold of in my recent catch-up splurge. Why? Well, I think it has something to do with the HB Terminal Operation, Violet Level Clearance. This card appears to have made quite the splash in the Netrunner tournament scene when run in a Haas-Bioroid deck that runs Cerebral Imaging as the ID. The synergy with those cards is pretty great, allowing for so many options. But is it really the whole reason for the pack flying off the shelves? There is one further card that is seeing a lot more play in the game right now than Violet Level Clearance, the Criminal Resource, Aaron Marrón. For just two credits and only using up two loyalty, this guy gets two power counters whenever an agenda is scored or stolen, and you can use these counters to remove 1 tag and draw a card. I love cards that work off necessary game actions like this! It’s like Landfall in Magic, something that is necessary to the game can work even more in your favour! Wonderful stuff! I’ve been thinking about putting a Criminal deck together for a long time already; I think this might be the impetus I need!

So, the Flashpoint incident is over, and the eighth cycle for Netrunner is taking us back into space and the Red Sands of Mars, in the aftermath of the Martian Colony Wars…

Arkham Horror LCG!

Hey everybody!
It’s time for another game day here at spalanz.com, and today I’m taking a look at the new Arkham Horror LCG from Fantasy Flight Games, having finally gotten around to playing through the campaign last week!

As a warning, this is a story-driven game, and I will be discussing some mild spoilers, so if you want a totally fresh experience, you might want to skip to the end!

Arkham Horror LCG

I was off work last week for the annual pre-Christmas break, so finally spent some time learning the game. I think one of the reasons why I haven’t really gone in for a lot of new games recently is a bit of laziness on my part, as I can’t really find the time to settle down properly with a game and investigate how it all works. However, I gave myself an afternoon to work out Arkham Horror LCG and, I have to say, it all went off like a dream!

I’ve already talked about a lot of the mechanics in this previous blog, so I don’t want to re-hash the rules again now. What I will say, though, is the similarities with the Lord of the Rings LCG are surprising – though both games were designed by Nate French, so I suppose in retrospect that shouldn’t be such a surprise. However, here’s a brief summary that should allow the rest of this blog to make sense…

You play an investigator looking into the mysterious goings-on in Arkham, and have three actions you can take on your turn, such as moving between locations, drawing cards and fighting monsters. When you’re done, any monsters engaged with you will fight you, then you get to draw a card and gain one resource (used to play these cards) before the Mythos Phase, where the evil agendas of the cultists are advanced and a card is drawn from the Encounter deck. These Encounter cards are either monsters or, more frequently, threat-style cards that can either have a one-time effect or a more persistent effect.

There is an Act deck that the investigators advance by spending clues, gained from investigating the locations on offer. Each scenario you play comes with specific Acts (usually three, from what I can see) and Agendas (varying numbers), as well as a scenario-specific Encounter set, then a bunch of other Encounter sets much like how Lord of the Rings scenarios are built. You need to advance the Acts before the Agendas have advanced, whereupon you determine the Resolution. There is a campaign included in the core set, Night of the Zealot, which is made out of three scenarios that build up a story of cultists trying to raise up an Ancient One out in the woods (what else?), and each scenario features rules and events that are based on what you did as investigators in the previous scenario.

Arkham Horror LCG

So, let’s talk about the game!

I just want to get this out there from the off: I absolutely love this game! I bought it a fair few weeks ago now, and can’t believe I’ve had it just lying around unplayed for so long! While saying “it blew me away” sounds a bit hyperbolic, but I can’t remember the last time I was this genuinely excited for a game. I took about an hour and a half to play through the first scenario, The Gathering, because I read through the Learn to Play booklet fully, and looked up everything to make sure I was doing it right, but quickly got into the swing of things – before immediately plunging into part two, The Midnight Masks, and following up with the final part, The Devourer Below, the day after.

I don’t know if it’s because of my long history with Lord of the Rings, but I found the game to play very intuitively after the first round or so, and from what I can tell, I wasn’t playing anything incorrectly. The cards are very straightforward in what they do, and while there are a number of keywords to keep a look out for, it’s not an insurmountable task to cope with them all. A big factor here was the fact I was playing solo, as there are a few mechanics that move monsters to the closest investigator, or the investigator with the lowest health – but that would always be me, so the choices were greatly reduced. I do credit the fact there are a lot of similarities with Lord of the Rings that allowed me to think of the mechanics in terms of the older game, which I suppose allowed me to get to grips with things quicker than otherwise possible.

The theme really comes out strong in this game. The Encounter decks are primarily event-type cards rather than monsters, which I feel better reflects the source material of HP Lovecraft’s stories, which are much more full of strange goings on than battles with hordes of gribblies. The investigator decks also feel quite thematic – I’ve played through with Roland Banks’ deck, using the starter deck suggested by the rulebook, and the mix of combat-orientated cards and investigative-orientated cards really felt right for a Federal Agent. The mechanics, as I’ve mentioned, are quite smooth and intuitive, and overall, I really love this game!

Arkham Horror LCG

But there’s got to be a down side, right?

Unfortunately, right. The fact that this is a story-orientated game is both a great asset and its greatest downfall. I mentioned earlier that I played through the core set campaign over the course of two nights; I no longer feel a need to play this game again. Sure, it might be different if I’d not won, and I can always go through it again with a different investigator and see if I get one of the different Resolutions this time around. But it’s very much a once-and-done feel to it. Even before the game was released, the standalone Curse of the Rougarou scenario had been announced, and earlier this month a second scenario, Carnevale of Horrors, has also been released. This seemed a bit odd – delightful, but odd – before I’d played the game, but now that I’ve run through the core set, I can see why such standalone games have been put out. I’m not planning to play the Arkham Horror LCG again until I get a new scenario to try, either one of these print on demand jobs, or else the upcoming Dunwich Legacy expansion.

I know I’m not alone in this, as there are plenty of folks on boardgamegeek and the like who have been talking in similar terms, and it does lead me to worry for the future of this game. Not in some kind of sky-is-falling “the game is over!” kind of way, but rather because I worry the designers are going to make subsequent scenarios super difficult to keep players attempting them while waiting for the next one to hit. After all, no game publisher wants their game to be played once and then forgotten about.

Of course, I think this will be a really great experience, and I look forward to getting the expansions as they come out. I really hope that they continue to make these expansions thematic and not monster-kill-fests, as I feel that would be the best way to stay true to the spirit of the source material.

At any rate, we’ve got two new scenarios coming in The Dunwich Legacy, which kick off the next campaign that stretches across the six packs of the subsequent cycle. Interestingly, we get five new investigators in that deluxe expansion, but the subsequent cycle doesn’t seem to offer any more – at least, it doesn’t sound like it from the previews we’ve seen. The Miskatonic Museum and The Essex County Express have both shown some really interesting player cards are coming our way, however, while the scenarios themselves would work well as standalone games as much as they’re meant to be integrated into the overall campaign.

I think it’s safe to say this card game is going in a really fascinating direction, and I’m really glad to be along for the ride!

Come on down to Arkham! Now in card form!

In the second of my over-excited post-GenCon game posts, I’m taking a look at the Arkham Horror LCG coming out imminently from Fantasy Flight. In the wake of the company’s break with Games Workshop, and the demise of Conquest, it’s good to see there will be a game that looks like it can slip into the void, and it looks like it will be a game for the ages. I’ve already talked about this briefly, but today, I’m going to take a look at all of the excitement from the recent news and previews, and hopefully be able to make sense of it all!

Arkham Horror LCG

The game can be played solo, which is one of the biggest draw for me in this day and age. Trying to get people together for games days has become entirely too much of an industry for me these days! Because of this, I might be drawing a lot of comparisons with Lord of the Rings LCG, so head here if you don’t know about that game!

First of all, though, let’s look at the deckbuilding. You play an investigator, who seems to be like your Hero card in LotR, and a bit like your Warlord in Conquest, in that they have a set number of cards you must include in the deck. Something I really like about this, however, is the fact that your deck includes weakness cards, which add so much more to the story of the game. Indeed, this is what I love about games like this overall – when you aren’t focused on making a game that has an associated competitive level to it, you can make the game so deep and much more interesting than constantly providing cards that attack your opponent or whatever. If it wasn’t already Lovecraft-inspired, this game would now be an instabuy when it comes out for the deckbuilding alone! And check out those card backs – nice!

But that’s not all, because this is a role-playing-card-game-game! Your deck is built with these “signature” cards, and then you choose a class to follow! There are also limitations to how much stuff your investigator can have out on the table – much like Arkham Horror’s hand mechanic for using items, the game uses these limits for hands, body, allies, awareness and accessories. It’s something I really like about the board game, as it adds an element of realism to an otherwise abstract idea.

The game appears to be played similarly to the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game, in that you play an adventure that is part of a linked campaign, and your success in each adventure determines how you customise your deck. That sounds really great, though something I dislike about the Pathfinder deck customisation rules is how you need to break down your deck between adventures to the basic cards again, and it seems like an age between having extra slots to increase your deck size. Of course, in that game it makes sense for balance reasons, but a part of me hopes that Arkham Horror LCG allows for a bit more flexibility with your upgrades!

The game play actually reminds me of Call of Cthulhu LCG, where you have skills that you make checks against – in CoC, you’re trying to put successes on stories, and here you’re investigating locations to find clues. At any rate, it’s nice to have that returning feel to the new game! There’s a really nice addition to this investigation mechanic, however, where you pull a chaos token from a bag, which can have an adverse impact on how you go on with the game. Sounds like a lot of thematic play is inbound, indeed!

Arkham Horror LCG

But what about the actual point of the game?

It looks like the game is all about finding the clues to stop the diabolical schemes that are going off in Arkham. The game has agenda cards that are split between the investigators and the game itself, and you need to put enough clues on the investigator side before the game can get enough doom on its own side. This is something that I really like! LotR has had similar things in the past with one or two scenarios, where you’re trying to advance the quest before some tokens are removed from objective cards or whatever, but in the main, I think the failing of that game can sometimes be that you’re pretty much only opposed by the enemy cards, so they make the game more difficult by having increasingly boss-level enemies, which really only leads to frustration. Recent expansions have remedied this somewhat with timed effects, but still! I think the idea of basically fighting the game rather than a progression of enemies could lead to some excellent scenarios here that aren’t combat-heavy, but more focused on exploration and investigation.

There also seems to be a lot going on between-games. After each game, you have the deck-customisation bit whereby you can upgrade and whatnot, but your actions taken in the game can greatly affect how you then upgrade. That sounds like it might be a lot of work for me, as I’m generally quite hopeless about thinking that far ahead. Looks like I might be levelling-up in life, not just my investigator!

The previews emphasize how the main ‘unit’ of the game is the campaign, and you play each scenario as a linked thing. While I like this idea a lot, and think there’s a lot to be said for it, sometimes I think I might just want to have a crazy adventure, risk my sanity, and shoot some cultists with my .38 special, you know what I mean? I like the idea of having just a one-off game, and I think that might be where print-on-demand could come in. For this year’s Arkham Nights, they’re giving out a standalone scenario, Curse of the Rougarou, which will be available later on via PoD. That would be cool if the scenarios are all linked, we could get some one-off things. Or maybe a shorter thing, like two linked scenarios, rather than a huge ongoing campaign?

That actually brings me on to the next bit… expansions!

The Dunwich Legacy

Last week, FFG announced the first deluxe expansion for the game, The Dunwich Legacy, and while some folks have been a bit incredulous that they’d do this, I’m just really excited for it! Aside from the fact that The Dunwich Horror is one of my all-time favourite Lovecraft tales, I love the fact we’re seeing how the game will progress right off the bat! It’s also quite similar to the way LotR worked, with having a story set after the events of the source material – we’re on the trail of the missing professors who climbed that hill to banish the Horror!

The expansion includes two new scenarios that link with the subsequent six Mythos Packs to create an eight part campaign. However, the announcement does state that the scenarios can be played independently, which sounds super-exciting!

It looks like the core set will be available around mid-October, and the first expansion will hopefully be with us in time for Christmas. Overall, I’m really excited for this one, and I just hope it lives up to these expectations once I get my paws on it!

Mumbad

Hey everybody!
The Mumbad Cycle recently ended for Android Netrunner, and while I haven’t really talked much about the individual cycles as I do for Lord of the Rings LCG, I thought I’d do a small blog today to mark the occasion because, in my opinion, this is by far the most flavourful of all those for the cyberpunk LCG, and is definitely worth talking about!

Android Netrunner Mumbad Cycle

The Mumbad Cycle gives us a global view of the Netrunner universe as we move to India, on the brink of an important vote as to whether clones should be granted citizen rights within the Indian Union. Basically, the story here is that everybody is against Jinteki, the corporation that has made a fortune in the cloning process, and that “will stop at nothing to make sure their most lucrative product remains just that: a product”. There are a whole host of cards across the six data packs of the cycle that detail the storyline, one of my favourite being Voter Intimidation.

Android Netrunner Mumbad Cycle

We get a lot of new great things in this cycle, including two new corp identities and two new runners, and a whole load of really flavourful cards. Part of me wonders if there is some degree of stereotyping going on here, as a lot of the cards have a very Indian feel to them, but not being myself an Indian, I don’t know if that’s a bad thing. They certainly don’t look culturally offensive, but I can’t honestly chime in on that debate. There are certainly a lot of cards that run with the Hindu vibe, though I feel this is more to establish the sense of place than anything untoward.

The new cards look pretty great, anyway. I’ve been looking them over, and can see where a couple could fit into my already-established decks, while a few others might even be worth specific build-arounds. I’d just like to mention two specifically, which involve one of my favourite mechanics of the game, agenda-manipulation. Liberated Chela is a 0-cost Resource you can pay five clicks and forfeit an agenda to make into a 2-point agenda. I love how the Shaper faction seems to have this kind of theme of making agendas out of nothing! While the Corp can forfeit one of their own agendas to stop this happening, it is still pretty nice, especially if you only have a one-point agenda (or have made one out of Notoriety). “Freedom Through Equality” is another such card, and while as a Current event it is only in play until another event is played, it could potentially win you the game if played late on.

Exchange of Information is an operation for NBN that allows the Corp to swap an agenda in their score area for one in the Runner’s score area if the Runner is tagged. Suddenly, losing my Utopia Fragment isn’t going to be too bad if I can get a tag on the Runner – and what do you know, isn’t that just NBN’s specialty!

There are two notable new mechanics introduced in this cycle, one each for the Corp and the Runner. The Corp has access to some powerful new Alliance cards, neutral upgrades and assets that give your chosen Corp some distinctive advantage if you have more of them in your deck. Each Corp also has an operation and an asset that grants boons if you have less cards from outside your Corp, creating a fine line for deckbuilding. It’s an interesting idea, and one that I hope to see built upon in future cycles. Something that I think could be really nice is having specific alliances set up between the Corps, though I don’t really have any actual ideas for implementing that!

The Runner has consumer-grade tech, which breaks the deckbuilding rules by allowing up to 6 copies in a deck rather than the usual 3. I thought this to be particularly interesting as it demostrates the “relaxed technology restrictions” prevalent across the Indian Union. This rule of 6 is further used in event cards, one for each faction, that are more powerful the more copies you include in your deck. Unlike with the alliances, I think this should be something used sparingly, but it’s nice to see new stuff like this being introduced to the game.

Overall, I’m mightily impressed with this cycle. I don’t normally wait until the whole thing is over before taking a proper look through the set, but I think this time around, having paid no attention to each pack until the sixth was in my hand, I managed to get a much stronger impression of the new stuff overall.

The next cycle, Flashpoint, has already had its first two packs previewed (here and here), and looks to be just as interesting, though I’m not entirely sure how they’ll manage to sustain the theme across six packs as they did so well with the Mumbad Cycle.