Back to the Champions

After quite a hiatus, I’ve got round to playing some more Marvel Champions recently, and it has been a lot of fun! Since I picked up the game this summer, I have pretty much only tried my hand against Rhino. I think I tried Klaw once and it didn’t go well for me, and I think I’ve also played against Ebony Maw from the Thanos expansion, but otherwise all my games have been against the same villain. Well, no more! For I have recently broken into the Galaxy’s Most Wanted expansion box, and have faced off against a couple of the scenarios therein with all-new (to me) heroes, as well!

The Guardians box was the second big box expansion released for the game, and has been almost universally panned by a lot of the online community, it seems, due to the steep difficulty curve that it involves. There is a lot of stuff going on in here, and while I don’t yet have the Red Skull box, it did surprise me how much of a step-up the scenarios are in comparison to what we’ve had so far. A lot of this comes from the fact that they have attempted to simulate space combat by using Ship cards which act as new Environment cards. It adds an extra layer, but it is nevertheless something that I was quite impressed with when I first tried it out.

The first scenario, which pits us against Drang and the Badoon, is quite good as it plays pretty much as you’d expect, albeit with the added threat of the Badoon ship. This charges up through a variety of effects, but at least does so at the start of each villain phase, and then does 2 indirect damage to each player when it has 4 charge counters on it. It’s an interesting way to simulate the idea of space combat as opposed to the more generic fights we’ve had so far, and I really like it. I mean, I don’t like it, per se, but as a rule it’s interesting! Drang can be quite powerful, especially when he gets hold of his spear at stage two, and his schemes enter play with a high number of threat counters on them already, so it can be difficult to balance the fight aspect against the thwart aspect.

Luckily, though, I was playing Star-Lord and Gamora, and while Star-Lord is a little bit janky in his pre-made deck, Gamora is quite a powerhouse and she was actually the one who saved the day by whaling on the villain and reducing him down each time. It was lucky, because both my heroes were close to death!

The second scenario is one of two where we are up against The Collector, and has a very different feel to the games I’ve played so far. At the start of the game, we have to set up The Collection, which takes the top card of each player deck and places it off to the side. Throughout the game, The Collector’s ability forces us to place any card that is removed from play into The Collection rather than into the appropriate discard pile, and if there are ever 5 cards per player in there, we lose. I felt like I was up against it from the off, and honestly couldn’t see how I was going to win this one. You can pay or exhaust a hero to recover cards, but due to me not understanding the rules, I actually lost pretty quickly.

See, any boost cards dealt to the villain, any cards used to pay for a card’s cost, any Treachery cards or any Event cards are never “in play”, so will not end up in The Collection. Did I realise that when I was playing? Of course I didn’t. So I was throwing everything in there, and lost in about 4 turns. Admittedly, Gamora was able to defeat stage one of the villain pretty well, and Star-Lord himself helped to get some of the health down, but he was also trying to recover cards from The Collection, which didn’t go well at all! 

It has been more than two months since I last played the game, though!

Interestingly, when I re-played the scenario knowing how it actually works, I didn’t find it half as oppressive as I had been led to believe by the internet. I don’t know if that was down to skill, or whether the aggro build for Gamora is just so efficient… But I was able to defeat both stages of the villain with only 6 cards in total ending up in The Collection.

While the Guardians aren’t exactly what I would call my all-time favourite group, the box does seem to have a lot of promise, so I’m looking forward to some more games at some point, as I take a look at the rest of the scenarios in here!

One of the things I wanted to talk about here is the campaign system for the game. LCG campaigns is something I’ve talked about recently here, and I suppose this can be read as a bit of an update to that blog. I’ve mentioned it before, but Marvel Champions definitely feels like a lighter game than some of the other card games I’ve got on the roster. It’s not a criticism, but simply an observation – it makes sense, as well, that FFG would want to try to appeal to Marvel fans, rather than simply gamers, so having a system that is fairly straightforward, and doesn’t take forever to play, etc, is a definite upside there.

The campaign system for Marvel Champions, such as it is, is correspondingly light as well. I’ve been playing with the Guardians of the Galaxy box, which I think needs to be mentioned again because I believe the campaign actually changes with each big box expansion. Generally, it seems that the campaign is very much a case of “play these scenarios in order”, and they are loosely related to each other. In the Guardian’s box, the campaign sees players earning “units” for things like cards in the victory display, having no minions in play, if the scheme is at a specific stage, etc. These can then be used to purchase cards from the market, which are added to your deck as you go through the campaign. It’s interesting enough, but it also sounds fairly lightweight and stuff. Shouldn’t be too much of a hassle to play through, I’m thinking, anyway!

In reading some reviews of the campaigns from around the internet, there seems to be a general feeling of they’re fine, but they’re not amazing. I wonder if that’s mainly because it’s gamers who are writing these things, or whether Arkham Horror LCG has the premiere campaign system of any living card game, and so the others fall down in comparison? Certainly, the Marvel Champions campaign system isn’t blowing anything out of the water, but I think the game is light enough that it doesn’t require (couldn’t withstand?) a complex system of levelling up and so on. 

I really don’t mean any of this to be disparaging, though! In a world where games seem to be constantly trying to put some kind of legacy-style campaign system into place, I think we need games where you can sit down, enjoy them, and put them away again. My first thoughts on the Hellboy board game were of surprise when I realised there wasn’t a campaign, before almost immediately about-facing, and asking why we’d actually need such a thing, anyway? I think we’ve been a bit spoiled, and we’re almost led to expect it now. Rather than enjoying a game for what it is. 

I feel like I need to dismount my soapbox now!

A lot of reviews seem to agree, though, that the Marvel Champions campaign system isn’t great, and folks would much prefer to have the additional cards in each box given over to more content such as more villains, or additional player cards. With what I know about the system, I think I would agree. This is mainly due to the release model for Marvel Champions though, where each cycle has five villains in a deluxe box, then one additional scenario pack each time around. Six scenarios per “cycle” seems a little light, although since the game moved to four heroes per cycle instead of six, it is in balance with itself. I suppose there is a perceived imbalance by having one box for villains and then all the subsequent packs for heroes.

I think I’ve rambled quite enough for today’s blog, however! Here’s to playing more Marvel Champions, anyway – especially when you consider how much content I still have to discover!! I think I would really like to make it through the core set stuff by the end of the year, if nothing else!

Marvel Champions

LCG campaigns

If you’ve been keeping up with my blog of late, you’ll have seen a massive increase in my playing The Lord of the Rings LCG of late, including finally getting round to playing the saga expansions. Very exciting stuff, I’m sure you’ll agree! I’m also roughly halfway through playing the Edge of the Earth campaign for Arkham Horror LCG and, having got this far, earlier in the week I finally set about using all of the experience gained to upgrade my decks. Playing both of these games almost side by side has got me thinking a lot about the differences between the two, and I’ve found myself really disappointed with the older game.

I think it mainly comes down to the campaign experience, really. Lord of the Rings was never really designed to have that kind of campaign feel, after all – the monthly adventure packs were of course designed to have a cohesive narrative to them, which only increased during the life of the game. That’s all well and good in terms of the encounter deck, of course, but when it comes to our player decks, they’re pretty much what we want them to be, and some folks do play “progression style” and only use the cards released up to the pack they’re playing, which is pretty much how I think we all played back in the day! But there’s no real sense of progression in terms of your deck, in the same way that we get in Arkham.

In Lord of the Rings, you can play earlier quests with cards from later in the game’s life, and have a comparatively easy time of it all. The core set still has some phenomenal stuff that you won’t find surpassed from later on, but the reverse is also true, and later cards do really help to smooth things out that just weren’t possible early in the game’s history.

In Arkham Horror, however, the player cards are designed from the start to level-up and improve as you make progress through the campaign. I think I spent a couple of hours the other night going through my collection to buff Patrice and Trish, and I found it actually really exciting, finding the upgrades that I could get, or exchanging some cards for others. It’s an obvious point, really, but it’s just great to have that aspect of the game built-in.

Interestingly, it also means that the game is quite accessible, because you can have a deck with clear avenues for levelling-up as you can just buy the higher-tier versions of cards that you started with, but also it allows for people who want to make some narrative choices with their decks as they play, and get really granular as to what they swap out and in. We’ve seen this most clearly with the five Investigator decks that came out a while ago now, where those decks came with higher-tier versions of the basic cards that really telegraphed how to upgrade the deck. There is the possibility for upgrading by increments, and spending your XP over a wide variety of cards by just taking them up a single notch, or you can go heavily in and invest it in the top-tier versions of just a couple of cards. I’ve done it both ways, and find the options are always quite fascinating really.

For my current duo, I approached the task by looking at the level 2 and level 3 cards first, thinking I’d go for a middling split, so have been able to upgrade quite a few things throughout each deck. Of course, it’s also a great point to see what is and isn’t working well for you in the deck, and to try and make the most of things by ditching the “filler” cards for something more usable. Of course, some element of filler might be needed, due to the way the game works – you might want to keep certain cards, not for their actual effects, but rather for their icons. 

The task of levelling up a deck can sometimes feel quite daunting, and playing Edge of the Earth isn’t the first time I’ve left it a couple of games before spending my XP because of that. Sometimes it can be a case of too much choice, and you don’t know where to start. However, you’ll always have that trajectory of levelling up the existing cards to guide you. In contrast, when I’ve come to make some tweaks to my Lord of the Rings decks before now, it really is a daunting prospect because you are faced with the entirety of the card pool to try and figure something out! I actually organise my cards for Lord of the Rings by set release, as well (rather than by type, as with Arkham), so trying to find a certain effect or something can be quite arduous! There isn’t really the same option of having a stronger/better version of an existing card either, although sometimes you might see cards where they have a bigger effect than one that you already have, such as giving a character +3 attack instead of +1 attack, but you have access to everything from the start. So for example, in my Eowyn/Theodred/Merry deck I have had the Rohan pump cards in there from the very beginning.

Now, Lord of the Rings does have boons and burdens in campaign mode, which are cards that get added to the encounter deck, or to the player decks, and carry over between games once you have earned them. So while you don’t get the option to have better versions of cards in your deck, you do get the chance to add some fairly useful cards to your deck over time. Of course, this is balanced by having to also include horrible cards as time goes on, as well (although Gildor Inglorion does get added to the encounter deck, which is always nice to see him). So we have recurring cards throughout, which we very rarely see in Arkham (the only example that springs to my mind in this vein is The Harbinger from The Forgotten Age, which I think pops up twice after its initial appearance). 

Of course, ultimately they’re different games and therefore they work differently. Lord of the Rings works perfectly well playing it as it was originally released, just building a deck and working through each of the adventure packs in a cycle. Many people do prefer to build a deck to tackle a specific scenario, and while I don’t do that per se, I am aware that there are some scenarios that I would never attempt with an all-purpose deck. FFG have now started to add boons and burdens to the re-released stuff, such as the core set and Angmar Awakened boxes, to make them all into a campaign in the manner of the Saga expansions. I’m not sure they needed this, if truth be told, but I think there is that kind of shift for a lot of games to make a joined-up experience and try to get people more invested. I’m a little baffled by the fact that Marvel Champions does this, because it strikes me as being entirely on-theme for you to be able to battle the villains in a one-shot kind of way. I don’t have any experience of the Marvel campaign system though, so can’t comment more fully just yet!

It does make me wonder if anything would be lost by playing the Saga expansions, which introduced this concept, in non-campaign mode. I wonder if the boons that you earn make the scenarios playable, and not having them makes it nigh-on impossible to win.

I have definitely rambled on far longer than I thought I would about this, so I should probably try to draw this to a close now! I think I definitely prefer the Arkham system for its clearly delineated path for progression, both in terms of the encounters that you face and also the player decks and the whole levelling-up process. However, the campaign system can also get really clunky, and sometimes it can feel very difficult to keep track of exactly what is going on, especially as you go through a campaign and you need to recall what happened earlier on. Lord of the Rings as a game is just wonderful, if incredibly difficult, although I must say I have had a whole new appreciation for the game since I stepped away from true solo and embraced two-handed. The game tells a really beautiful story and, while it can often get a bit complex as well in terms of what exactly is going on, oftentimes the scenarios are designed really well, and really draw you in as a result. The only thing it falls down on, really, is how it attempts to implement the whole campaign thing, but aside from the Sagas, I haven’t really felt the absence of a campaign system before now. It’s funny how playing the Saga stuff has made me see all of this, really!

However, most of this is only an issue when you look at stuff from later in each game’s life. When you look at the Shadows of Mirkwood cycle for Lord of the Rings, it tells an overarching story (following Aragorn’s rescue of Gollum from Mordor) without any kind of complicated system of adding and/or removing cards as you go. The most complicated aspect is having to disassemble the encounter decks if you need to re-use some card sets across different scenarios (although personally I just bought five core sets, so have more than enough!) This model is broadly true for each cycle in Lord of the Rings, although the narrative of the game becomes more dense as we move through the various expansions, often leading to complicated set ups.

Arkham Horror, by contrast, sees us adding cards to our deck that we have “earned” right from the core set, with the infamous Lita Chandler, and the first cycle, The Dunwich Legacy, does play around with this as we rescue characters, and gain esoteric formulae etc. Later cycles do become quite complicated – I’m thinking of the Innsmouth Conspiracy, which flip-flops between the present and the past, so requires us to remove and add cards based on whether we’re going back in time. Sometimes you might only earn a card for a single scenario, which feels a bit redundant overall. However, it does intrigue me that it took six full cycles before the game realised that a monthly pack release schedule is not what this game is about, and it serves the game much better to produce a big box of the campaign that has all of this stuff that we can just mix and match across the various strands of play. While I’m currently not all that sure if the Edge of the Earth campaign is all that fun for me, I can nevertheless see that this is how Arkham should have been, right from the start.

It’s funny, though, that they’re now trying to retrofit Lord of the Rings expansions with a campaign mode as well, as they release these boxes in a similar manner. I suppose it’s a symptom of the rise in popularity of these sort of legacy-style games, where we as gamers need to have those links, and have story choices that matter. Unfortunately, we don’t get to make story choices in Lord of the Rings, we just play the scenario that is given to us. Many times in Arkham Horror, we can actually choose when to end a scenario by resigning without actually having completed our investigation. There are real decisions in campaigns like Path to Carcosa, which influence the path that we take through the eight scenarios. It is glorious, but it’s also a lot of book-keeping and can become very clunky in some campaigns.

In a perfect world, then, I think I would have the Arkham-style player deck progression, with the early, story-driven scenarios of Lord of the Rings, and try to just forget about campaigns and boons or burdens.

But that’s just me!

Star Wars LCG!

Hey everybody,
Following on from yesterday’s game day blog about my rekindled love for the now-defunct Star Wars LCG, I’ve been taking a look at all of the expansions for the game that we have, and in particular looking at what each cycle brought to the table in the order that they came out. It’s interesting to me, to see when certain cards were published, and to a lesser extent, how they fared in the meta.

The card game had a total of six cycles published over its duration, and we also had five deluxe expansions – including one that gave us a multi-player variant. Let’s take a look at what each cycle brought to the game…

The Hoth Cycle (2012-13)
The first cycle of the game introduced many Hoth objective sets for the various factions, although there was more of a specific focus on Rebels vs Imperials, given the nature of that battle. We see a variety of bonuses available for decks which include Hoth objectives, with card effects slanted towards a player having a lot of these cards in their deck. It isn’t all about the Rebels and the Empire, however, as we have a host of cards for the other factions that don’t necessarily take in any notice of the battle on the ice planet. Smugglers and Spies get Renegade Squadron, though, which was a force led by Col Serra in the defence of Echo Base, comprised of smugglers and scoundrels. The Sith faction gets the super star destroyer Executor, which is a shocking card, while Scum & Villainy get a bunch of new bounty hunters to augment those already in the Edge of Darkness deluxe.

When evaluated as a whole, the cycle has got a lot of interesting cards, even from outside of the Hoth theme. However, I think more than any other cycle from any other card game, the Hoth Cycle is one of those that begs to be played in order – by which I mean, adding cards to your decks in the order that the packs came out. There isn’t power creep, per se, but the theme of establishing the base, the Imperials arriving, and the desperate flight from the ice world is captured really quite beautifully in the way these cards came out. It’s one of my biggest gaming regrets, not being able to play this game as it was published.

Echoes of the Force (2014)
The second cycle had something of a focus on Force users, and introduced a lot of fairly powerful cards, particularly for the Jedi faction. However, all factions have an interaction with the Force struggle, from Scum & Villainy capturing Force cards, to Smugglers counting the top card of their deck towards the Force struggle, it’s great to see a load of innovative ways for the various factions to stay relevant in a Force-centric set. We get a number of lightsaber forms as enhancement cards, and a lot of the factions pull characters from the Dark Forces series, such as Kyle Katarn and Jerec. The Empire is creating the Dark Trooper project, and we get more of a focus on vehicles from the Rebellion. Which is interesting, because vehicles are something of a focus for the next cycle, too. We also get Mara Jade and Winter, which is very nice indeed!

Rogue Squadron (2015)
With a focus on starfighters and dogfights, the third cycle introduced the Pilot mechanic as a way to essentially crew friendly vehicles. Doing so can grant vehicles bonus abilities, or switch on the effects of the pilot cards themselves. We get a lot of new starfighters, as you’d expect, and at times it feels like the game has crossed over with X-Wing, as a lot of the pilots from that game are featured in card form, Howlrunner, Mauler Mithel, etc. We get new versions of Han and Luke, with the Pilot keyword, but it’s not all about the small ships. Indeed, we get Grand Admiral Thrawn in this cycle!

The Endor Cycle (2015-16)
The fourth cycle once again provided a sense of location, but the biggest change was Mission cards, which are played as objectives under your opponent’s control, waiting for you to attack them. They generate no resources for your opponent, but count as objectives in every way, and when they are destroyed, you get a bonus (in addition to the usual stuff). Given that we’re on Endor, there is an Ewok subtheme with a load of neutral objective sets that contain the furry aliens. The way that Endor objectives work is also really interesting, in that cards interact with how many are on both sides of the table, and it can sometimes be possible to shift your damage to your opponent as some card effects don’t specify who owns the cards.

Opposition (2016-17)
The fifth cycle pitted pairs of factions together in opposition, Jedi vs Sith, Rebels vs Imperials, and Smugglers vs Scum. While we have plenty of cards that are drawn from the movies and expanded universe, we also begin to see characters from Rebels join the fray, starting with Ahsoka Tano. We also have a fairly interesting development in terms of faction-specific Fate cards, which is a way of emphasizing the struggle between the paired opponents. It’s a really interesting way to emphasize the theme of the cycle, but I also like the fact that we still get stuff like the Pilot mechanic, ensuring that the game hasn’t completely forgotten about its own expansions.

Oh yeah – and the Empire gets a Death Star card…

Alliances (2017-18)
The final cycle sought to bring factions together, and gave new Affiliation cards that paired the factions in specific ways, with bonuses when you adhere to the deckbuilding requirements in this way. So for example, by including five Smugglers objective sets, and five Jedi or neutral objective sets, you fulfil the requirements for the new Smugglers affiliation, Desperate Allies, which grants the bonus of removing an additional focus token from a unit after you refresh. With a focus on mixing factions in this way, there are many cards across the cycle that have pseudo-multi class abilities, and there are a few copies of the enhancement card Necessary Allies that grants a resource that matches any affiliation, thanks to the Influence keyword.

More importantly, though, this cycle features cards that pull from Rogue One, Rebels, and the Darth Vader comic series. So we get Doctor Aphra, Jyn Erso and Ezra Bridger, along with all the usual suspects, but we do continue to get the more familiar faces from the original trilogy, and a few new faces that are drawn from FFG’s RPG, which would have been so exciting if this hadn’t been the final cycle! It’s nice also to see continued support for stuff like Endor and Hoth objectives, and cards that have been printed throughout the game’s run continued to appear in objective sets right to the end, allowing for a great level of consistency across the whole game. It’s one of the reasons why I love this game so much, and find the deckbuilding particularly fascinating.


I am currently in love with this game, and I can’t wait to play it more, and more, and more! I hope to get some more games in soon, and I shall doubtless be waffling on again here in due course!!

Remembering the Star Wars LCG

Ah yes, there was indeed a Star Wars living card game. Running for six years, between 2012 and 2018, the game took in the breadth of the Star Wars galaxy from across the original three movies (including Rogue One) and the expanded universe, filling five deluxe expansions and six complete cycles of Force Packs. That’s a lot of cards, though due to the unique structure of the game’s Objective Set deck building rules, the number of unique cards is probably lower than you might think.

I really loved this game, and bought it up consistently for the first few years of its life. When the content started to drift into including Rebels stuff in the fifth cycle, however, I called it a day; in retrospect, if I’d have known that I only had two more cycles to pick up, I might have stuck it out. But, it is what it is, and while a part of me has been thinking that maybe I’ll see if I can still get some of the later packs, I do feel a bit like my resources might be best used elsewhere…

I’m planning to try it out with my wife at some point in the future though, since Jemma did suggest having regular games nights, and we have played a variety of card games now. It’s also pretty newbie-friendly, I think, having the Objective Set structure behind it, as you don’t need to worry too much about building a deck. I’m planning to get just a couple of interesting decks built up, and seeing what she thinks of it, so here’s hoping that I’ll be successful in that!

For all that it’s straightforward in terms of the deck building, which can be as easy or as complex as you like, I think that the game itself plays really quite interestingly. I mean, it almost doesn’t play like any other card game I have tried. The Star Wars thing of having infantry defend against starships is handled well, I think, by having the game basically be about the struggle of light vs dark, and you’re using the unit cards to represent your overall power and might, and not throwing bodies against vehicles, etc.

When you get into the nitty gritty of focus tokens and edge battles, I think the game really comes into its own as this kind of struggle for overall dominance, and it’s something that I really, really enjoy. The fact that it’s done with my favourite cast of heroes and villains, is really just the icing on the cake, I suppose!

I really like the idea of focusing cards to use them. It really gives the game some nice design space when you talk about multiple uses of cards, and making decisions on how many resources to generate from those cards that have the potential to give big returns, but then losing its utility until you’ve been able to clear the tokens from it. Having the asymmetrical gameplay is another thing I like (though of course, it’s not in the same league as Netrunner in this regard).

I’ve gone for two decks to start with, Jedi vs Sith, and have tried to keep them interesting but not overwhelming. In case I’m able to succeed, I’ve got decks built up for the other four factions as well. I’m hoping that things will go my way, and the game will grab Jemma’s attention! I have previously taught her to play Magic, which she got without too much fuss, and she continually surprises me at how competitive she gets in games, so I’m hoping that she’ll like it enough to play more!

One of the big draws for this game now, of course, is that it is finished. That may sound a bit weird, and don’t get me wrong, I love a game that continues to get support, but when you find yourself in a position like this, it’s kinda interesting because it almost becomes a board game, with finite pieces. There may be hundreds of different cards, but you have that finite resource to draw from, and it does feel, to a fairly large degree, that you are dipping into a board game, rather than flicking through endless reams of cards. Another plus point for the Objective Set system is that you assemble a deck fairly quickly from the library, and set up consequently doesn’t take very long at all.

I suppose when the expanded universe was washed away, the writing was on the wall for this game’s survival, so entrenched was it by that point. The material was predominantly movie based, of course, but legends characters like Mara Jade were involved, and while Doctor Aphra has since made an appearance too, I don’t think it was a good move to have that sort of mix. FFG were perhaps rightly looking elsewhere, and Destiny came out with content firmly in the Disney canon. The LCG was therefore allowed to die off with a whimper, and the company has moved on to other outlets for the Star Wars license, mainly X-Wing and Legion. Games like Outer Rim getting an expansion was a surprise, as they do seem to otherwise be very low-key with the Star Wars license, which continually surprises me as I would have thought we’d have seen plenty to exploit the new content that we’re getting! But I wonder if Disney are trying to pull the license back to themselves, and so might be looking at different avenues for the future. Star Wars and gaming have gone hand in hand since time immemorial, so it seems baffling to me that more games aren’t being produced.

At any rate, it’s been so good to get my collection out of the attic, and I’m really looking forward to trying this game out once more!

It’s a shame, really, that I don’t think I’ll ever be able to convince Jemma to try Warhammer Invasion, or Conquest!! 🤣

The Circle Undone

Hey everybody,
It’s game day here at spalanz.com, and I’m back to the mythos today as I’m talking about the cycle that I’m currently playing for Arkham Horror LCG!

Arkham Horror LCG The Circle Undone

So I’ve skipped over an entire cycle here, forgetting about The Forgotten Age for now and going straight to The Circle Undone! I’ve wanted to try out Diana Stanley as an investigator for some time, so even though it doesn’t feel like all that long since I played a Mystic, I wanted to see what the whole thing was about with cancelling effects and so on. Other than that, I had no real clue as to what I was letting myself in for, but to date, this has by far been one of the most enjoyable gaming experiences out there!

The deluxe expansion is where we’re at today, and things are a bit crazy off the bat. There is a prologue before we get to the main two scenarios of the game, Disappearance at the Twilight Estate. We’re at a party, and strange things are going on. There are four “prologue investigators” included in the box, who each have a hand (not a deck) constructed from the available pool of investigator cards. The object of this prologue is simply to survive – indeed, the booklet does actually start off by telling us “there is no positive resolution for this scenario”, ending with “good luck – you’ll need it”!

The prologue, I believe, has a bearing on what happens further down the line in the cycle, though I’ve read a lot of people don’t like this prologue scenario, because it forces you into playing “investigators” and so on that you don’t necessarily want to. It’s fine with me though, as it adds another layer of the narrative to things – although I wasn’t best pleased when I discovered that I needed to use cards that had already been earmarked for my investigator decks!

I played as Jerome Davids and Valentino Rivas in the prologue, and it ended up with them both being pulled into the spectral realm. Creepy mist is hanging about – it’s all beautiful!

The Circle Undone

The first scenario proper is The Witching Hour, and begins with the investigators having their fortunes told on the breezy streets of Arkham. The tarot reading is a big part of this expansion, as Tarot cards are a new slot in the game that add a variety of effects, which can be quite interesting – though again, a few people I’ve seen discussing this expansion online seem to object to the addition! Anyway, the first scenario is all about witches, as a bolt of lightning streaks across the sky and we are transplanted into Arkham woods. This is an interesting scenario in that the investigators are at first separated, and can only investigate their own location – set-up instructs you to pass the locations around the table and place them in front of you, which does nothing for me playing solo, but I imagine for a 4-player game it would be quite atmospheric!

The object of this scenario is a bit like ‘defeat the big baddie’, but once again we have that pervasive sense of how futile victory can be.

The Circle Undone

The second scenario, At Death’s Doorstep, sees us returning to the Meiger estate, investigating some disappearances that have been occurring in the French Hill area of Arkham. I played this one a little while after the prologue, which is just as well I think, because it does feel very similar at first. Depending on who got pulled into the mist in the prologue, clues are placed at certain locations and those locations can flip over onto their spectral side as before. It’s all very weird, with the mist coming into the house, but we learn that the Silver Twilight has attempted to recreate the events of the earlier scenario in order to investigate what exactly happened. Creepy stuff!

This scenario is slightly weird also, because it includes an Interlude in the middle of the game. Following the conclusion of the scenario, there is a further Interlude, which serves to put the story firmly on its trajectory for the subsequent cycle. More so than Dunwich or Carcosa, I felt very much like this one was trying too hard to straightjacket us into the right way, if that makes sense. It’s not getting in the way of things, I don’t think, but it is noticeably there, and as such does seem to impact a little on the flow of things. The second Interlude feels a little bit overly mechanical like this, in that it is a single story chopped up into 9 pieces, and we skip over any of those that didn’t have an impact, which feels ever so slightly odd. I don’t know, it sounds like I’m purposefully trying to be difficult about this box, and I’m really not! It’s probably one of my favourites for the theme so far, as I’ve said! New England witchcraft, what’s not to like?!

So I’m at the end of the box, now, and have managed to gather 7VPs for my investigators from the scenarios, along with becoming an enemy of the Lodge – something I’m not entirely sure how it happened, but there we go! I have accepted my fate, escaped the spectral realm, and I’m on Valentino’s trail. In addition, the booklet has been instructing me to note down “mementos discovered” – I have no idea why, but I feel it might be interesting later on. For now, then, I’ve recovered a mesmerizing flute, and some ritual components. Hm.

It really has been fun, despite my small grievances I’ve mentioned – I think it’s one of those that appeals to me because I enjoy the regular-cultist trope over fantastical monsters, and it is really intriguing to think how these two elements – witches, and the Silver Twilight – might come together. It’s making me want to get back into reading some of the more spooky Lovecraft stories – Dreams in the Witch House and so on! It’s a really nice pace for the game, and I think the fact I didn’t enjoy the second scenario as much is probably more to do with wanting to have more witchcraft-y scenarios like the first one!

So there we have it – I’m firmly on the path now, though have been finding it difficult to get games in since Christmas has been and gone. Definitely been in more of a hobby mood of late, as shown with the army update blogs, but hopefully I’ll be able to get some more card games in soon. I still have a lot of Lord of the Rings to catch up on, as well!

Warhammer: Invasion

Hey everybody!
It’s time for a celebration here at spalanz.com, as this post marks my 1000th post on my blog! Whoever would have thought? It’s also my birthday, so it’s a double celebration, and I thought that I’d mark it in style. Today, I thought I’d talk about one of my all-time favourite games. It’s one that I have mentioned rather a lot over the years, but have never gotten round to actually featuring on the blog until now. It’s time to delve into the Old World, with Warhammer: Invasion, from Fantasy Flight Games!

Warhammer: Invasion

This was one of FFG’s original line-up of living card games, and as such features the older distribution model of having one full cycle of card packs (called ‘battle packs’ here) where they didn’t print an entire playset of each card; rather, the first cycle has 40-card packs where 10 cards have the full set of three copies, and 10 cards are one-of. The game was designed by Eric Lang, who has worked a lot with FFG over the years (and, due to his design of this game, has earned the glorious reputation of being my favourite game designer!) and was published between 2009 and 2013. This is really why I have never gotten round to featuring it on my blog, as I didn’t start writing it until the year after it had received its final expansion.

It is a competitive game for two players, where each player takes control of one of the six great factions of the Old World of Warhammer Fantasy: The Empire, Dwarves, High Elves, Chaos, Orcs or Dark Elves. This is before Age of Sigmar shook things up, remember, so we’ve got the delightful Holy Roman Empire-inspired battlegrounds replete with legends such as Karl Franz and Sigvald the Magnificent.

I’ve played this game a lot, and while I have played as every faction, I have the most experience as playing Chaos, and so all of the photos I’ve taken to show this great game are from the Ruinous Powers’ perspective.

Warhammer: Invasion

Each player has a Capital board, which has three zones: a Kingdom zone, a Battlefield zone, and a Quest zone. These zones determine how you play the game. Each has a number of axe symbols there: you gain resources equal to the number of axes in your Kingdom zone; you can attack your opponent for a number of damage equal to those in your Battlefield zone, and you draw cards equal to the number of axes in your Quest zone.

There are a number of different card types in the game: mainly Units, such as fighters and wizards, but also Support cards, Tactics cards, and Quest cards. Support cards are a bit like locations or objects that you can deploy to increase your influence in the game. Tactics cards are basically Event cards, with a one-time effect. Quest cards are only ever played into the Quest zone, and represent a longer-term investment in your strategy – they have effects that will trigger if a unit is played onto the quest, and you can gain bonuses thereafter.

Warhammer: Invasion

The object of the game is simple: you must burn two of your opponent’s zones by dealing at least 8 damage to that zone.

So, on your turn you get three resources because your Capital board has got three axes in your Kingdom zone from the off. You can use those resources to play cards into your Kingdom zone to increase the axes you have there, which will net you more resources next turn, or you can play cards into your Quest zone to draw more cards on your next turn.

Resources are a bit funny in this game, in that there are two costs for playing a card: the actual printed cost (in the top left corner) and its Loyalty cost, displayed in symbols down the left hand side of the card. Each Capital board provides one loyalty symbol, and other cards, once played, will provide a similar cost. If you only have two symbols among cards under your control and the Capital board, and the card you want to play has three loyalty symbols on it, then the difference increases the cost of that card. It’s a good way to balance cards where players might want to combine races (though that isn’t such an easy thing to do anyway, so I’m not sure you’d want to do this very often).

The Kingdom zone gives you buying power, as we’ve seen, and the Quest zone increases your card draw as well as giving you useful options through Quest cards, which can grant useful effects when units are placed there on the quest. The Battlefield zone is, normally, the only way to actually fight your opponent and deal damage to them. During the Battlefield phase, the active player can declare attackers against his opponent’s zone, totting up the combined axes between all of the cards declared as such. The defending player then declares which if his units, if any, will defend from that zone, and the damage is assigned simultaneously. Once this has been done, it is actually applied so the attacker and defender can both lose units at this point. Any excess damage dealt by the attacker is placed onto the defender’s Capital board, and as mentioned earlier, 8 points of damage is enough to burn that zone. (Importantly, if the defender has the possibility to over-assign damage in their defense, that damage is not dealt back to the attacker’s Capital.)

Warhammer: Invasion

So in the above example, I’ve got six axes in my Kingdom zone, so I’ll be getting six resources per turn, and I get to draw three cards per turn, also. The Battlefield zone is quite impressive, having a Bloodthirster out that deals a massive 5 damage, as well as forces the discard of a unit from my opponent’s Battlefield zone before I attack. The Bloodletter also doubles all damage being dealt to units, which could potentially allow me to one-shot a zone in my attack phase. Nasty!

It’s a very straightforward game when explained like this, but there is a depth that comes from different card effects as well as the strategy of where you’re going to attack. For example, a player might be tempted to place a lot of his heavy-hitting units in his Battlefield in the expectation of using them to deal a lot of damage, but if his opponent attacks his Quest or Kingdom zone, there may be much weaker units there that cannot absorb the amount of damage coming through. Similarly, it sometimes doesn’t pay to double-down on attacking your opponent’s Quest or Battlefield zone if they’re building up a vast amount of resources in their Kingdom zone, which allows them to easily bring out something like a Bloodthirster!

There are a number of moving parts to a game like this, of course, with keywords that allow for some evil shenanigans on both sides. Toughness appears on some cards and acts as damage-negation, while Counterstrike allows a defender to immediately deal its damage to the attacker, reducing the overall damage being dealt. I said earlier that each zone will burn if it is dealt 8 points of damage; one way you can protect it is by playing cards face-down into that zone as Developments. Developments add 1 hit point to the zone that they’re in, and a player may only play one Development per turn. One aspect of the game that is particularly associated with Chaos is Corruption, which turns a card 90-degrees and removes its ability to act as an attacker or defender. You only get to restore one Corrupt card per turn, so if your opponent has Corrupted a number of your cards, then you’ll be facing an uphill struggle, from the off!

Warhammer: Invasion

With a generous life-cycle, Warhammer: Invasion had a lot of expansions. In addition to the initial Assault on Ulthuan box that brought High Elves and Dark Elves into the game (the core set only included four full factions, with just a couple of cards for the Elven races), March of the Damned brought us Lizardmen and Vampire Counts. The artwork on March of the Damned, as I have mentioned many times before, is what initially drew me to this game!

There were six full cycles each of six Battle Packs for the game:
The Corruption Cycle
The Enemy Cycle
The Morrslieb Cycle
The Capital Cycle
The Bloodquest Cycle
The Eternal War Cycle
Each of these worked on developing a specific aspect of the game, such as the Bloodquest cycle giving greater emphasis to Quests in the game. The Morrslieb cycle gave greater interaction with Developments, while introducing the Wood Elves to the game as a neutral faction, similar to how the Skaven had been introduced in the Corruption cycle. Hidden Kingdoms was the final deluxe expansion that then brought the four neutral factions to the fore, making each one a fully playable faction by giving small-scale Capital cards to allow you to play, for instance, all-Lizardmen:

Warhammer: Invasion

Perhaps one of the most important expansions was the Legends deluxe box, which brought a new card type to the game: Legends (surprising, that!)

Warhammer: Invasion

These cards are played into the centre of your Capital, and grant additional axes to each of your zones. Legends can be attacked instead of attacking a particular zone, and some of the more powerful ones might need to be dealt with before they can run away with the game for your opponent, so it can sometimes be worthwhile doing this! The deluxe expansion brought ways to interact with these Legends, however, and subsequent expansions even brought out new Legends, making them as close to a fully-supported type as possible. Hidden Kingdoms, in fact, brought us neutral Legend cards for each of the four factions.

Finally, the Cataclysm expansion gave us the option for multiplayer games.

Warhammer: Invasion

Cataclysm changed up the gameplay quite a bit, by adding these Fulcrum cards – sites of incredible magical power that can be channeled by a player during his turn to gain the effect on them. Cataclysm brings 3-4 players into the mix, and there are always 1 less Fulcrum cards than the number of players in play. In a four player game, three Fulcrums are in play – a player can declare an attack against a Fulcrum card from the common play area, and gain control of it, putting it into his Battlefield zone. During the end phase of the round, a player gains Dominance equal to the number of Fulcrums under his control: if a player has 8 Dominance at the end of the round, he will win.

Warhammer: Invasion

Cataclysm also changed the rules so that all three zones of a player’s Capital board must be burning for them to be eliminated. As such, the player cards included with the expansion all held a greater significance for burning zones, although these could obviously also be used in regular games, though given the fact fewer zones need to be burning, they would have a correspondingly lower impact.


Warhammer: Invasion is just a magnificent game. Before I discovered Magic the Gathering, it was my most-played competitive card game by a long shot. Something changed for me back in 2015, though, and the fact that Magic can be played purely with a deck of cards, and no need for all the tokens and Capital boards, it sort of struck a chord for me, and Warhammer: Invasion slipped down the ranks. However, I think with the End Times and then Age of Sigmar obliterating the Old World, there is something incredibly comforting about this game – I don’t mean that from the point of view of someone who rages against AoS, of course! I just love the low fantasy setting of the Old World, and I find it akin to coming home whenever I think about playing this game.

I mentioned the depth of gameplay that Warhammer: Invasion holds earlier, and I think there is something to be said about having a game where you begin with a deck of 100 cards! Games can be brutal, for sure, but they can also be quite long, as each side builds up their forces in the manner of true warfare. Sorties are sent to test the enemy, in case of any Tactics cards that might be played, before committing to an all-out assault in the typical carnage of Warhammer!

I haven’t played it for four years, though, which I suppose speaks a lot about my gaming habits in this day and age! Solo and cooperative games are a much better bet for me now, of course, but I’m hopeful that, when the world has returned to normal and we can see friends once more, I can convince my long-time gaming buddy Tony to break out his High Elf deck and once more demolish my attempts to Corrupt the world!

Post 999!

Hey everybody!
It’s my 999th post on this blog! What an incredible milestone! I honestly didn’t give things much thought back when I started this endeavour back in 2014, but I suppose as time has gone on, I suppose it’s been quite exciting to see the blog growing – even if it is with my inane babble! As we gear up for post number 1000, which is already written and scheduled to go live tomorrow, I thought I’d have a bit of a catch-up blog with you all, and dip into some of the stuff that has been going on in recent weeks!

Curtain Call

Recently, I’ve been playing a lot of Arkham Horror LCG, and enjoying myself immensely. Back when I first played the game upon release, I definitely knew that I enjoyed the game, but always seemed to struggle to get round to actually playing it. It wasn’t until last year, almost three years after the initial release, that I got round to actually trying out a full campaign.

Now, however, I’m firmly entrenched in the whole thing, having really revitalized my enjoyment of the game and throwing myself in whole-heartedly! I’ve made my way through two full campaigns now, and I’m poised to start on a third over the festive season, tackling The Circle Undone with Diana Stanley and Joe Diamond. Having sleeved the cards for this cycle, it’s been exciting to see that this one focuses more on the classic trope of regular cultists trying to bring about the end of the world, rather than fantastical creatures and the like. I’ve been recording my games here on the blog, and I’ve set up a page specifically to collect these posts together. I’m sure I’ll be trying out some campaigns multiple times, too, but I want to try out all the game has to offer me, and make up for lost time!

Interestingly, all of this Arkham Horror LCG has got me thinking about trying my other great card-game love, Lord of the Rings LCG. It’s been a long time since I have last played this game, I think I tried my hand in one of the early scenarios in the summer-time, but playing this game has really dropped off my radar in recent years. It’s interesting, of course, because I still really love it, and I still call it my all-time favourite card game. I suppose part of the reason for me having stepped back a bit from it resides in the fact there is just so much of it now. The game wound up a few months ago, after the last cycle took an absolute age to actually see all six packs released – in total, we have nine full cycles, eight deluxe Saga expansions, and about a dozen standalone scenarios. It’s quite mind-boggling, really, and the player cards have become quite the beast to wrangle!

Earlier this week, as it happens, I spent a sleepless night looking through my collection once more, and reliving some past memories as well as tinkering a little with my favourite Rohan deck. The whole thing was brought about because I wanted to re-sleeve some of the cards, requiring the transparent sleeves for Arkham Horror as it happens, but it really took me on that journey down memory lane, to the time when I would excitedly play each pack in the Mirkwood cycle as it was released – spending yet another sleepless night back in, what, 2011, playing The Dead Marshes. Ah, memories!

I’ve currently got four decks built up and ready for the game – the Rohan deck, a Dwarf deck, an Elf deck, and more of a generic/mix that uses a number of Dúnedain and Outlands cards. Going over these (and re-sleeving them), and sorting out a lot of the later packs from Harad, Rhovanion and Mordor, has got me thinking how I’ve never really ventured very far into this game, always returning to Mirkwood and the Dwarrowdelf, without really exploring any of the cycles from Ringmaker onwards, really! Looking back, I got as far as The Dunland Trap from that cycle (the game’s fourth, just fyi!) while playing what I would call regularly, back in 2015, and have pretty much given up, since! Sporadic plays of a scenario from Angmar and Harad notwithstanding, I’ve pretty much let the bulk of this game pass me by, whilst still compulsively collecting it!

Well, hopefully that will change soon!

Lord of the Rings LCG

I’ve got my eye on playing some of the newer quests, potentially with that Dúnedain deck, or else with the re-tuned Rohan deck, over the festive period (although probably more like the new year weekend). I’ve even been considering building up an entirely new deck, using the newer player cards to build around the Dale theme. I’ve got my eye on trying maybe The Lost Realm, or else Vengeance of Mordor as that has struck me as a very intriguing cycle. I’ve heard so many good things about the Ered Mithrin cycle, though, so that is also a strong contender. Of course, I playtested on the Angmar Awakened cycle, but I think I came into the game after the playtesting for the deluxe expansion had finished. I have lots of bad memories of never being able to escape from the dungeons, but it’ll be nice to actually play the game in its finished form, with artwork and not the badly-formatted black-and-white printouts that were sleeved on top of other cards!

So that’ll be something good to look forward to!

What else has been going on?

Well, I’m quite excited to say that I’ve pretty much finished my first major terrain piece! I mean, I’ve painted up some ammo crates before, but I’m quite excited for this one! The Sector Mechanicus stuff is really nice, and I have rather a lot of it after all, but I think after the game of Necromunda the other week has got me thinking more about terrain and whatnot, so I think it’ll be nice to have some done. I’ve been working on a Galvanic Magnavent lately, building it up to reflect the back of the box rather than the “standard” build from the front (I’m pretty sure I did that with another piece, too…) so I think when I have these big pieces painted up they’ll look really good out on the table!

Let’s talk about Necromunda though, as it’s something I’m hoping to try out again over the festive break (first Lord of the Rings, more Arkham Horror, and now this?! Where will I find the time…) I’ve been reading up the rules for scenery from the Book of Peril, and I’m quite excited by just how interactive the battlefield can get! So it should be really interesting to see how all of that works (although it might not be something that I get to straight away, as there are a lot of moving parts in this game, after all!)

It’s not all about the scenery though, as I’ve also been building up some more Van Saar folks as the excitement around House of Artifice increases! My current leader comes in at a whopping 310 credits – I know Van Saar are expensive, but that’s a third of the starting gang, so I needed to slim them down a bit. This chap, above, is a much more respectable 245, which means I can actually fit in another body, between trimming down the leader and champion options. I think that game I linked to earlier definitely showed just how much the advantage of numbers can go in your favour – and expensive gangers are of no use to anybody if they’re Prone and Pinned!

Finally…

We need to talk about this. I don’t think I’ve properly recovered yet, of course! But 10 new Star Wars series’ is just phenomenal! The Mandalorian is showing that Star Wars can absolutely have a future on the small screen, and I am so excited to see what they’re going to do with it all. I probably need to confine my thoughts on this to a separate piece, but suffice it to say, I’m really happy with what’s going on there right now!

So, folks, that’s almost a thousand posts finished! Come back tomorrow to celebrate my birthday with Post 1000 itself – I think it’ll be a good one!

Dipping into Madness…

Hey everybody,
Today is once again game day here at spalanz.com, as I was lucky enough to get some time to myself yesterday where I could actually play some games! I know, it was quite spooky really! My daughter is now thirteen months old, and is certainly in more of a routine where I can plan stuff like this, so it was definitely time to grab that while I could!

I managed two games, along a similar theme, and it was just glorious.

First up, we have Eldritch Horror. This is one of my all-time favourite games of globetrotting mystery and supernatural dread, although it suffers somewhat for being such a juggernaut to set up! This time around, it took some time for me to get back into the swing of things, although I think it was literally just one round for each of the investigators – Mark Harrigan and Diana Stanley – before it all came flooding back, and I was off! I chose these investigators because I had finally actually read that little introductory blurb at the start of the rulebook, where it seems to be the pair of them looking into the weird occult mysteries of the world…

I followed this up with Arkham Horror LCG, a game that I have been trying to get back into for a couple of weeks now. I have built two new decks since I last played back in the summer of 2019 (when I actually ran through the entire Dunwich Legacy campaign). Roland Banks is the first investigator that I ever used, and even though I’ve not exactly played this game a lot, I have something of a soft spot for him all the same. Akachi Onyele is usually a very powerful investigator in the other Arkham games, though I’ve played two games with this duo now and it’s clear already that she really needs the right spells out to be any good. That’s probably a bit harsh, but in the game yesterday, I noticed particularly how she just couldn’t really do anything before I had Wither out, whereupon she became more of a tank than the Guardian investigator!

I’ve really gotten back into the whole Cthulhu mythos and Arkham Files games lately, and part of me is now really annoyed with myself for having sold off my Arkham Horror 2nd edition collection last year. I got a good price for it, don’t get me wrong, but it was such a good game, and I never got round to featuring each one of the expansions on the blog before it went.

However, I’ve found myself looking into getting the 3rd edition for Christmas, so that will be quite nice when the festive season is finally here! Definitely need stuff to look forward to as we’re on the cusp of a new lockdown, as well!

Eldritch Horror was just lovely to get back on the table, I must say. I’ve still got a couple of expansions for that game to feature up here, so I’m thinking that I’ll get back into the tradition of looking at those roundabout Christmas time! Indeed, playing yesterday’s game was mostly about getting back into the game so that I could look at playing the expansions – seems like I’ve only played some of them once or twice, but The Dreamlands box is still in the shrinkwrap! I’m really behind with the times here.

I kinda fell away from the Arkham Horror LCG last year, thinking that I was barely playing it anyway, so didn’t buy any of the Dream-Eaters cycle as I had three full campaigns still to play through. However, I’m now thinking that I need to catch up with it all! I’d spent a few days recently looking into it all as if from scratch, and have sleeved all of my cards and bought the ‘Return to’ boxes to make sure everything is stored up properly, so I’m really finding myself quite hungry for more now!

Having taken that time to get to know the game again, though, I can definitely see myself playing this one for a long time yet. It seems as though the Dunwich Legacy campaign is fairly tame in comparison to some of the later ones, and a lot of people seem to favour the Path to Carcosa set, so I’m thinking that my next proper foray will be there – everything is ready for me, anyway!

Interestingly, now that Lord of the Rings has finished, I’m finding myself almost moving away from that game in favour of this one. For sure, I’m not going to be sacking off my collection of the older game, as I’ve had far too much fun with it over the years to want to be without it, but I think that game did seem to suffer a little for the designers’ efforts in making it more challenging. Mirkwood and Dwarrowdelf are still the high watermark for me, although I’ve not played so many cycles from the game I could be selling it short. However, with Arkham, it seems to have been designed as fairly tough from the outset, but the variable difficulty of the Chaos Bag allows for it to still be enjoyable. In fact, as I think I’ve talked about before, the game really benefits from not being a simple kill-the-monsters sort of thing that Lord of the Rings can sometimes become – the encounter deck for Arkham is very often full of treachery cards, with just a couple of enemies to keep things interesting. There are so many different moving parts in the game that keep things moving, so that the formula allows for much greater variety on the whole.

Like I say, I’m not getting rid of Lord of the Rings, but I do feel that Arkham Horror has overtaken it in my affections lately!

Remembering Netrunner

Hey everybody,
Anyone who reads my blog regularly will know I’m mostly obsessed with Warhammer 40k, although of course I’ve long been a huge fan of all manner of tabletop boardgames, particularly those from Fantasy Flight. While it’s been almost two years, I’ve recently found myself feeling pretty nostalgic for Android Netrunner, that amazing living card game that came to an end in 2018 after six glorious years of expansions that served to deepen the gameplay and expand the universe.

Android Netrunner

 

I first featured this game on my blog back in 2015, after having had a couple of years’ casual play out of it with my regular gaming buddy Tony, who introduced me to it after we’d enjoyed a few of the LCGs from FFS’s stable. I think the original draw, for me at least, was how asymmetrical the game play is. The differences in what each side is trying to do made it pretty different from any game I’d come across, before or since, really!

At the time, I was quite heavily involved in web development, and was looking to pursue it as something of a career option. Perhaps this was among the things that attracted me to the Runner side of the game, particularly the Shaper faction. While I think I’ve tried out each of the Runner factions, the Shaper was the faction I kept coming back to, because of the tinkering aspect of the identity. Being able to do crazy-ass things appealed to me greatly, and it was for sure the identity that I had the most fun with!

Android Netrunner

I played in the Summer 2015 Netrunner tournament, using my favourite Shaper build alongside a hastily put-together Haas/Bioroid Corp deck that I hadn’t really used before. Indeed, playing the Corp wasn’t something that I was overly familiar with at that time, as I’d played almost exclusively as the Runner when playing against Tony. However, the tournament was perhaps a symptom of the success I’d had with infecting the local community with this card game, and opportunities for games became fairly regular over time with guys at the local store. As such, I was able to get into playing more Corp decks, and to see what the fuss was all about.

Android Netrunner

NBN is an identity that I had graduated towards shortly before their deluxe expansion came out, and they had a massive boost in publicity. For most of my time with the game, Jinteki seemed to be the dominant Corp that I’d played against, although Tony always favoured Wayland. At any rate, I started throwing cards together and, over time, came up with a really enjoyable deck to play – I think I won with it as often as I lost, so I think that’s a fairly decent yardstick!

Android Netrunner

I sold off my collection in December 2018, sadly, having not actually played the game for more than two years prior to that. It was actually quite a sad moment, really, as I’d had so much fun with the game over the years. As it happens, though, I turned it into more plastic crack, so I suppose I’ve managed to get something out of it.

I do feel, though, that of all the games that I’ve played, the games that I’ve bought and then sold, this is one that I really regret losing a hold of. FFG stopped publishing the game, of course, but I have recently thought about trying to get a hold of a core set again, maybe a couple of expansion packs, just to recreate some of those happy times! I think Tony has still got his copy though, so I can always raid that to build up some decks and try my luck again when the lockdown is properly lifted!!

We’re approaching GenCon now, of course, which always gets me thinking about the other games from my collection. Gaming isn’t all about the grim darkness of the far future – something that I think I’d like to try to recapture as time goes on. Fingers crossed!

The Dunwich Legacy campaign

Hey everybody!
It’s campaign time for today’s game day, as I bring you my first thoughts and news on how I’ve fared with playing through the first two encounters of The Dunwich Legacy campaign.

Back in June, I played the first scenario, Extracurricular Activity, and this past weekend I finally got to the second scenario, The House Always Wins, so thought it probably time to give some thoughts here as I’m way behind with playing this game!

I was playing my Jenny Barnes and Ursula Marsh decks, one that has a strong emphasis on investigating locations, the other that is attempting to be a bit of an all-rounder deck. I don’t think I did too badly in the first scenario, but the second was a bit close to the wire for me, as all hell seemed to break loose and I was close to losing the game!

Professor Warren Rice was last seen working late at night in the humanities department of Miskatonic University.

The Dunwich Legacy deluxe expansion was the first such for the Arkham Horror LCG. As with all such deluxe expansions, we get two scenarios in the box, along with all of the new investigators we’ll have for that cycle, and a bunch of the “filler” cards that get used across each of the different scenarios in the cycle. What I found quite interesting, having come at this game from my long-standing Lord of the Rings obsession, is that the deluxe box used some of the filler cards from the core set too, something that wasn’t seen in the older LCG until the seventh deluxe box.

The premise of the box is that Dr Henry Armitage, that venerable old stalwart of the Arkham Horror universe, has enlisted the help of the investigators to find two colleagues – Professor Warren Rice, and Dr Francis Morgan. The investigators can choose whether to go find Rice first, or Morgan. Without really thinking about it, I set up Extracurricular Activity first, so found myself on the trail of Warren Rice!

Arkham Horror LCG Dunwich Legacy

I find it difficult to get going with Arkham Horror LCG games, because I haven’t played it enough to get a real feel for the game. Lord of the Rings LCG has seen my table so often over the years, I can go for a long stretch without playing it, and still pick it up quite easily. With Arkham Horror, however, it always takes me a lot of time and effort to get back into it. Unfortunately, I invariably then play just one game before packing it all away once again… bah!

In my attempt to ensure I found Professor Rice, and thinking that I was playing the scenario, I inadvertently allowed a horrible monster to attack the students in the school… whoops… I managed to conclude the scenario (I wouldn’t really say “win” by spending clues in the Faculty Office, discovering the professor bound and gagged in his own closet. The fiends! Ursula has now got his ally card added into her deck, which is nice!

Campaign Log:
The investigators rescued Professor Warren Rice.
The investigators failed to save the students
2 VPs were won by each investigator.
Ursula Downs has identified the solution.

In front of La Bella Luna stands a man in a pinstripe suit who sizes you up as you approach. “Enjoy yourselves,” he says with a snake-like grin as he holds open the restaurant’s front door.

Just over two months after starting on the campaign, I returned to it this weekend with the second scenario in the box, The House Always Wins. We’re going to the Clover Club, a decision that I found frankly bizarre when the expansion was first announced, but what the hell!

After the events at the University, my intrepid duo of Jenny and Ursula now entered the sleazy life at the speakeasy, as they attempted to track down Dr Morgan. First of all, I have never played a game where I managed to gain so many resources and do so little with them as when playing this one – I think Jenny managed to gain pretty much the entire bank of resources by the end of the game!

This scenario really pleased me, though, as quite a lot happened that felt quite thematic for the sort of story we’re telling here. It came right down to the wire, with the agenda one doom counter away from the club collapsing around me!

Campaign Log:
Naomi has the investigators’ backs.
Dr Francis Morgan was kidnapped.
1 VP was gained by each investigator.

“I’m afraid I must apologize. There’s something I didn’t mention to you earlier.” Dr Armitage then spins a tale you would scarcely believe had it not been for your harrowing experiences earlier that night…

I really enjoyed playing through the two scenarios in this expansion. While they were separated by months, it’s nevertheless quite easy to pick up the story, and whether through the design of the game itself, or just the fact that I’m wired that way anyway, I thought it felt like a well-matched pair of games, despite the different locales.

The Dunwich Legacy is set several months after the events of The Dunwich Horror, one of my all-time favourite Lovecraft stories. While nothing in the deluxe expansion really feels like it bears anything but the most tangential relation to that story, I do get the feeling that we’re gearing up for a cycle of adventures that deals with the fall out from the destruction of Wilbur Whateley’s brother.

I think it’s interesting to see the comparisons between this game and Lord of the Rings LCG, which took quite some time to develop its campaign play system. I mean, there was always an element of narrative thread running through a cycle from the off, but it wasn’t really until the saga expansion idea that we began to see a real campaign implemented. Right from the off, Arkham Horror LCG gives us this, with real consequences in-game for the events of the previous outing, and adding cards to our decks if we manage to discover certain things, etc. It’s quite fascinating really, to view this game as an evolution of the older game, and I find it interesting to read comments from folks who have praised this as almost the pinnacle of the co-operative LCG. I say this, because I find the campaign structure to be so well-integrated overall that it becomes almost impossible to play a scenario out of step with that campaign. I mean, for sure, there’s nothing literally stopping you from doing exactly that, just picking up a mythos pack and going at it, but the game is so narrative-focused, and the story of the campaign is so deeply ingrained that it becomes almost cheap to just play it for what it is. Of course, I’m not trying to say that Lord of the Rings LCG is better because you can so easily play those packs as a stand-alone adventure, but I feel like there could well be a limited replay value to Arkham Horror LCG that I hadn’t previously considered.

I said earlier that I haven’t played the Arkham Horror LCG enough to feel like I’m all that fluent with the gameplay yet, which could well be in part due to this limited replayability issue, but I’m hoping that I can change that soon. Having played through the core set campaign two or three times in a previous effort to get into the game, it does feel really nice to finally be moving on with the game, and experiencing more of the stuff it has to offer, as that experience can feel quite stale, even with a year or more between each play through.

All of this may sound like I’m actually quite down on this game, but I’m definitely looking forward to moving ahead with the campaign and seeing how I fare in the rest of the cycle and beyond!!