LCG News!

Wow, folks! Just, wow! Things seem to be getting a little bit crazy in the Living Card Game world at the minute, with FFG announcing the end of one of their most successful LCGs, Android Netrunner just days after the announcement of a new co-operative card games, Heroes of Terrinoth!

Android Netrunner

The news that Netrunner is ending is quite the shock, I have to say. I’d always been under the impression that it was one of their biggest product lines, and thought that would be too much to let it go. While the article, Jacking Out, makes it sound very much like the decision was made by FFG, and the game was just at the end of its natural run as a product, there are other quotes scattered around related news articles that refer to “the unfortunate news about the Netrunner license”, which makes it sound more like they’ve lost that license, rather than anything else. A lot has been made in the past of FFG wanting to focus more on their in-house IP, which we’re now seeing with the second-edition-style of Terrinoth games such as the RPG, so I can see why they’re looking at things like the Warhammer license and perhaps choosing not to renew (though what exactly happened there, we don’t know!) Star Wars is doing well for them, and I think A Game of Thrones will continue to be an earner, as well. But it still feels a bit odd that they’re just letting this one go, especially so soon after the rotation period.

Android Netrunner

I’m going to be sad to see Netrunner leave the stable, even though I stopped following the game after rotation. I’ve had a lot of fun with this game over the years, and I still remember the excitement of that very first game I had back in the summer of 2013. When I used to live in my flat, I had neighbours out the back who would hold a massive birthday party around the 4 July weekend every year, which would invariably go on into the small hours – Netrunner proved to be my coping mechanism for that, as I’d just settle down to a night of watching the Naked Gun trilogy, and (initially) sorted out my entire card pool into each faction (up until this point, I’d kept them sorted by expansion). Year after year, that 4 July weekend would be when I’d go through the card pool once again, and see about mixing up my decks for the coming months. It sounds a bit strange, but I came to really enjoy these times, all the same! Netrunner was the game with which I somehow managed to infect my entire local community with the LCG bug, and led to one of only two official tournaments in which I’ve competed. I don’t want to turn this into some kind of eulogy for the game, but I’ll be sad to see it go.

Heroes of Terrinoth

Going back to in-house IP brings us nicely on to the news from earlier in the week, where another co-operative card game has been announced: Heroes of Terrinoth. This game looks like it is strongly influenced by the mechanics of FFG’s Warhammer Quest card game, something that turned out to be a one-shot before the license went away back in 2015. While I wanted to like it, ultimately I wasn’t really a big fan of that iteration, I have to say, which makes me a little wary of saying this, but I’ve been waiting for a Terrinoth LCG for what feels like centuries!

It feels at first glance a bit like Arkham Horror LCG, with heroes coming from a specific class. However, with eight quests in the core set, and a focus on dungeon-delving to slay the monster and grab some loot, I think this is more akin to Descent: the Card Game, than anything else! Maybe that’s just me being immersed in these games from the start, though…

It’s definitely got the potential to be a lot of fun, at any rate, something that I think has been the hallmark of the first batch of Terrinoth games such as Descent. While FFG has looked more at the tribal feel of the setting through factional games like Runewars and Rune Age, I think it’s interesting that they’re returning to the hero-driven style with this new game. It seems to be an aspect that a lot of people appreciate – and I’m guessing that if they had introduced another factional-based game, it would have the potential to be too similar to Legend of the Five Rings. Building a deck as a hero rather than a warlord has that classic RPG feel, which I suppose is another of the hallmarks of Descent-era Terrinoth games. It’ll certainly be interesting to see where this game goes next, and if the tribes such as Uthuk Y’llan or Daqan Lords will make an appearance. It could be telling that the announcement article mentions the setting as Mennara, the entire world of which Terrinoth is only a part, so perhaps we’ll branch out beyond any of the other games FFG has yet produced?

While it isn’t another LCG, I’m guessing that the distribution model will be very much akin to it, with campaign boxes bringing more quests and the like, and potentially class-specific upgrade packs to further kit-out your decks. A huge negative for the Warhammer Quest game was its lack of replayability, but with eight quests off the bat, this should at least be better in that regard.

It’s worth pointing out, incidentally, that all mention of the deck-building card game Rune Age has been removed from the products pages now. You can still find it if you search for it, of course, but I wonder if they’re planning to quiety do away with that one now that they have the LCG on the horizon?

There’s also the State of the LCG article up on the website, which looks into how the Netrunner announcement will potentially affect the other games on the roster. L5R is naturally a big component of this right now, and while I’ve not been paying attention to the latest of the living card games, it does seem like this is perhaps their principal thrust for the time being. The approach of releasing all six packs for a cycle across six weeks, rather than the usual six months, I find really interesting, as it was always something of a contention for the games I used to follow really closely, waiting for that one sweet card that I knew was in pack six, and having to stand by while seeing other factions getting awesome stuff. Warhammer Invasion was always a pain for this, but to a lesser extent, I’ve also seen it a lot with Lord of the Rings, when a card would come out in pack six that would have made the experience with quest #3 so much easier!

It’s interesting to read how the designers think the other LCGs are doing right now, and seeing their priorities for the future. Arkham Horror and A Game of Thrones also seem to be pretty big for the company right now, and seeing the designer insight for all four of the games here was really interesting as showing just how unique each game is now being encouraged to be. While it strikes me as a little funny that A Game of Thrones seems to be morphing a little into its first edition, it’s cool to see such attention to the story being given in Arkham Horror. It’s also kinda fascinating to see the differences that each game is trying, with stuff like the Return to the Night of the Zealot box for Arkham Horror that seems to function almost as a Nightmare Deck deluxe, and the intro decks for each House in A Game of Thrones.

Lord of the Rings still troubles me a little, though I think there is still the potential there to keep going for a while. We’re poised on the brink of the Ered Mithrin Cycle, of course, which is exciting as it feels like we’re going back into the heartland of Middle Earth after being away for so long, but there’s a part of me that wonders, will this be the end? I think a lot of players have been guilty for a long time of thinking the end is nigh, but with the launch of the new digital edition, it does seem that this is more of a possibility now. With seven full expansion cycles, not to mention all of the Saga expansions and standalone decks, would this be the right time to draw the game to a close? The glimmer of hope, for me, is seeing Caleb’s thoughts about implementing campaign play with the game now that the main six-part Saga expansion era is over. Not that we should be reading so much into it these days, but perhaps something like a Return to the Night of the Zealot box could be coming, marking a return to some of the older scenarios to make them into a more cohesive campaign. I think it’s really exciting to see them return to some of the encounter sets from the Core Set in the upcoming deluxe expansion, so maybe this could be a thing once again?

Anyway, this has been a very long and rambling post about Living Card Games, so I think I’ll stop here. I’m curious to see what other people think, though, so do feel free to leave a comment with your thoughts!

New LotR deluxe expansion announced!

Hey everybody!
Well, it was with some trepidation that I’d been waiting for the big announcement for Lord of the Rings this weekend, as I was beginning to feel like the sky was about to fall, and the game would be announced as ending. The whole Harad cycle seems to have been really stalled, and I’m sure it’s taken almost the whole year to get not very far with it (pack five has just been released, more than a year since the deluxe came out). While the big announcement has yet to be made (at the time of this writing), I’m so glad that I was wrong, and that another announcement was made yesterday for a brand new deluxe expansion for the game!

The Wilds of Rhovanion sounds just wonderful. In many ways, it feels like something of a return to the Lord of the Rings of the early days. Accompanying a band of refugees north from Harad to Dale, we go along the Anduin and through Mirkwood once again, before being given a quest by King Brand that leads us deep into the Iron Hills. The feel of the Shadows of Mirkwood and Dwarrowdelf cycles is definitely there for me as I read through the description, and I am hugely looking forward to getting my hot little hands on this expansion in the new year!

The player cards coming in this expansion seem to have a focus on Items, denoting the powerful trade links of Dale. It looks like it should be a really interesting box, with cards that allow you to move items among your fellowship and so forth. It’s already got me thinking about my decks, and going back over the Items of the game to see what I’ve been overlooking all these years!

Overall, very cool to see the game continuing like this, and I’m very happy to see we’re off to the north-east of the map, somewhere I’m not overly familiar with. It’s going to be a very exciting time for the game, I’m sure!

As regards the bigger announcement due later today, a lot of people seem to be under the impression we’re getting an app. I’m not entirely sure why, as the previous games from FFG to have such treatment tend to have an app to convert it from competitive to cooperative. Elder Sign has Omens, though, so maybe we will be getting another such thing? I’d prefer it be something for the physical game, if I had a choice, but I guess we’ll just have to see!

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!