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!!

A Shadow in the East

Wow, you guys! Wow!

Lord of the Rings LCG is getting an eighth deluxe expansion pack, A Shadow in the East, and it sounds spectacular! We’re heading to Rhûn for this and the subsequent Vengeance of Mordor cycle, and I for one simply cannot wait!

The three quests that come in the expansion are all a little reminiscent of the Against the Shadow cycle, with their urban feel and sinister cults, but there is also the added feeling of the oppression of Mordor, with the idea of mysterious ruined temples built in honour of Sauron. Wow!

This has been great news, I have to say. It’s always exciting to see more come out for this game, which I have frequently said is my all-time favourite board/card game in my collection. We’re getting new quests of course, and we’re travelling to another new area of the map, so what’s not to like? Some very interesting new theme and mechanics coming on the cards we’ve seen spoiled so far – and we’re getting The One Ring once again!

I’m not sure whether this new Ring card will make it into my decks (although I’m also wondering whether it will be a stipulation of playing the quests?) as I’m a fairly cautious player at times, and reducing my threat elimination level by 5 to play with it seems a bit too much for me! But I’m sure, in time, I’ll try and experience how it changes things – especially seeing as how there will be new cards that interact with it, as well.

The first double-sided Hero card is here, too! I’m sure I’ve seen fans speculating about the possibility of a Sméagol/Gollum card for years, so I’m sure there are plenty of folks excited by this! With two cards shuffled into the encounter deck that give him a chance to flip to the Enemy side, I can see having the Ring’s ability to counter encounter cards in this way could be quite powerful! He’s otherwise quite decent-looking, and his cost is splendid! Reminds me of the Spirit Glorfindel from back in the day!


I’m really excited to see a new deluxe expansion – I’ve been concerned for a while now that The Wilds of Rhovanion would be the end of the game in its paper form, as it seems to have a real “last hurrah” feel to it. You can read more about that here, though! There is still some strong speculation online that the language used in the announcement feels a bit final – “it has all led to this” etc – plus the question of just what was happening within the time period the game is supposed to be following, leading many folks to think we could be in for news of the final expansion pack soon.

Previous LCGs from Fantasy Flight have come to an end when they have about this much content out there for them, of course. We’re coming to the end of the eighth cycle for the game, which has also included seven deluxe expansions and eight Saga deluxe expansions, as well as eleven standalone expansion packs, not to mention all of the Nightmare expansion packs! There is a heck of a lot of content out there right now for this game, and while the amount of content doesn’t always equal bloat for a game like this, there is nevertheless quite a high barrier to entry at this point, and I wonder if the designers might be feeling the need to draw things to a close. I guess we can but wait and see on this.

At least we’re in for more Lord of the Rings LCG for a while yet, and I cannot wait to see what we’re going to be up to in this upcoming cycle! I think it might be time to crack out some decks and see how far I can get once more!

Getting back to Mirkwood, part one

Hey everybody!
I’m having something of a card game renaissance lately, getting back into both Arkham Horror LCG and my all-time favourite game, Lord of the Rings LCG! I’ve rambled previously about these events, of course, and today will be a little more of a ramble, as I talk about revisiting three of the absolute classics of the game, the first half of the Shadows of Mirkwood cycle!

I’ve waxed lyrical about this game in a number of posts now, but I really can’t quite describe just how much joy I get from playing this game!

If you read my original look through the Mirkwood cycle linked above, you’ll know just how much I like to wax lyrical about this cycle. I wrote that back in 2014, but it all pretty much still stands up as true! The cycle is just so classic for me, and so quintessentially what this game is all about. This was released before the Saga expansions of course, when I think FFG didn’t have licence to produce games set to follow the books themselves, so had to work around that by producing these side-stories. We see this most clearly with the Dwarrowdelf cycle, of course, but even with things like the Dead Marshes here, we’re attempting to visit book locations while not telling the story of Frodo and Sam.

While I’ve been a huge fan of this cycle since I originally bought it, I don’t normally play Conflict at the Carrock or A Journey to Rhosgobel, as I like the cinematic feel of playing packs I, IV, V and VI in that order. Missing out the ‘side quests’ has become so normal for me that actually playing them this time has been a lot of fun! A Journey to Rhosgobel in particular was almost something of a discovery, as I’d forgotten so much of that scenario!

I was playing through them with my Elves deck, which is made up of a lot of cards from the Ringmaker cycle, something that I was curious to see whether it would have much of an effect on these comparatively older expansions. As it happens, the answer is no. Don’t get me wrong, I think there’s a lot to be said for playing with a much more synergistic deck like all-elves or all-dwarves, as FFG have really made some great attempts to bring these cards together into often quite powerful archetypes, whereas trying to play with the wider synergies of the entire sphere could see you struggle, but I don’t think it makes things particularly easier to manage. My elven deck can allow Legolas and Glorfindel to become real powerhouses, of course, but I still managed to end up with Glorfindel Sacked! in Conflict at the Carrock, and I did still lose A Journey to Rhosgobel after having only discovered one Athelas plant.

I’m really thinking I might play Rhosgobel again, as I feel like I barely know that pack! It was a lot of fun – well, the whole playthrough was a lot of fun! But yeah, might get back to that one before I move on into the Hills of Emyn Muil


I’ve got the second half of these quests to play through as well, of course, but I’m also thinking about playing through on Nightmare mode before I move on to Khazad-dûm. It’s something I definitely don’t normally do, as I find a lot of the time, Nightmare mode feels like it breaks the original theme for the sake of making an otherwise really enjoyable game unnecessarily difficult. However, when I’ve previously looked through the cards for the Mirkwood Nightmares, I seem to recall they’re actually very thematic as well. Maybe I’m unjustly hating on Nightmare mode? Anyway. We shall see!

The Lord of the Rings LCG remains my all-time favourite game, and I am really looking forward to getting back into playing through some of my favourite quests, as well as playing the newer scenarios that I have yet to experience! Stay tuned!

Getting back to Arkham!

Hey everybody!
After talking more about the general boardgames in recent weeks, rather than bombarding you all with news of my hobby progress etc, I thought I’d come here and ramble for a bit about how it went with my Arkham Horror LCG core set campaign!

It’s been ages since I had originally started this, of course, and I had actually had to re-start so that I could once again get into the game and its various mechanics.

So I took Daisy and Skids off on an adventure to save the world from a diabolical cult, and it actually went fairly well – my initial thought about two investigators causing more problems didn’t really pose that much of an issue, as there were also more clues being spawned and we got through the encounter deck a lot quicker, etc.

I must say, I’m quite surprised at the differences between this game and Lord of the Rings, which I’d recently gotten back into of course, and my approaches to them. Skids had pretty much been tooled-up to be the heavy hitter, while Daisy was scampering off investigating clues etc, but there is a distinct lack of enemies that require beating up for the Skids deck as I’d been building it to really work.

While there are plenty of monsters here, and that’s also true of the board game antecedent also, the game is less about combat than it is about, well, everything else! I quite like that about it, as I’m not really looking for a beat-’em-up style experience all the time.

The Dunwich Legacy

For now, anyway, I’ve made my way through the core set campaign, Night of the Zealot, and while I’m sure at some point I’ll be investing in the campaign box they recently brought out, for now my attention has been firmly fixed on Dunwich. I’ve been putting this off for an age now, of course, but I really want to actually make it to the first cycle of expansions and just see what they’re all about!

My initial investigations have shown that it has no real link to the core set, so I have retired my Daisy and Skids decks, and instead have been looking to build decks with the new investigators from the deluxe expansion. This sort of thing does bring with it an interesting situation, as the investigators here have a completely different sort of limitation upon their deckbuilding, which involves a lot more thought than the core investigators, and just mashing together two factions into a single deck! Of course, I still haven’t made the leap for a second core box, so my deckbuilding options are a little slim as far as that goes, so I’m thinking I may well be buying that second box before Christmas gets here.

I’m very much looking forward to getting back into the whole card gaming world of LCGs this autumn/winter season, so stay tuned for more exciting updates!!

Arkham Horror LCG

Returning to Middle Earth!

Hey everybody!
So, after my last blog, I was really feeling the need to get back into Middle Earth, and playing some Lord of the Rings LCG once again. It’s without a doubt my favourite game, so when I had some spare time last Sunday, I dusted off my elves deck and took a turn through the first two scenarios in the core set.

My goodness me, what a wonderful time was had!

I’d forgotten how good the elves were to play, having not had a game with that deck since 2016, when I had made a brief attempt to get playing this game again, and made a new Dúnedain deck. The elven strategy is to gain benefits from discarding cards; some of those benefits can be quite handy, and one of the most notable from my games at the weekend was that of Erestor, allowing me to cycle through my deck a lot more efficiently.

I’m sure I’ve said this before, but I feel like I have become a much better card-game-player since I started getting into Magic all those years ago, as the whole Magic scene better-prepares you for building decks etc than any other game I’ve ever come across.

The Wilds of Rhovanion

While I’m currently thinking that I’m going to try and play my way through the game from the start, cycle by cycle, the reason for me writing this blog today is that I have now taken delivery of both the latest (last?) deluxe expansion, and the first pack in the linked cycle! I’ve talked briefly about this before, but I do have the strong feeling that this latest expansion is bringing the game a whole lot closer to the early days of the Mirkwood cycle, when I really fell in love with it and obsessed over it.

The three scenarios take us along the Anduin once again, through Mirkwood Forest, and then under the Lonely Mountain on a quest for King Brand, who appears as one of the new heroes. The expansion has a really nice feel to it, and the Dale theme among the player cards does appear to be one that could be a lot of fun to work with. I’ve previously tried an Outlands human deck, but felt it was a little bland – the Men of Dale could be the men I’ve been looking for all these years! Ahem…

What’s really exciting about this latest expansion in the fact we’re re-using encounter sets from the core set – only a couple, but they’re there once again! It’s something I’ve wondered if they’d ever do for a long time now, and while it is only the core set encounters, I am left wondering how far they could feasibly take this in the game. Expansions of expansions are always a very dubious prospect, as it requires a player to have more than just the core set, but given that each cycle has required its deluxe expansion in order to function, it would really only be expanding on that theme…

Of course, I’m not going to get into the whole “is this the final cycle?” question just now.

The Wilds of Rhovanion
While I did say earlier that I was going to attempt to play my way steadily through all of the released content for the game, I might just have a sneaky game with this expansion at the weekend, perhaps make up a new deck especially for the occasion, and see whether the old magic still pervades the latest offerings for the game. And then I’ll get stuck into The Hunt for Gollum!


So what is my elven deck, you might be asking yourselves. Well, it’s something that I built a number of years ago, somewhat following on from this pair of articles on the FFG website, here and here. So, in the spirit of sharing, let me show you…

Glorfindel (spirit)
Elrond (lore)
Legolas (tactics)

Leadership:
Erestor
Orophin
Naith Guide

Tactics:
Rúmil
Galadhon Archer
Marksman of Lórien
Arod
Bow of the Galadhrim
Rivendell Blade (2)
Blade of Gondolin
Unseen Strike
Hands Upon the Bow
Quick Strike
Pursuing the Enemy
Rain of Arrows

Spirit:
Arwen Undómiel
Imladris Stargazer
Lórien Guide
Light of Valinor (2)
The Favor of the Lady (2)
Elrond’s Counsel (2)
The Galadhrim’s Greeting (2)
Fair and Perilous (2)
A Test of Will (2)
Island amid Perils
Children of the Sea

Lore:
Henamarth Riversong
Haldir of Lórien
Gildor Inglorion
Galdor of the Havens
Galadhrim Healer
Mirkwood Runner
Silvan Tracker
Asfaloth
Elf-stone (2)
Protector of Lórien
The Tree People
Lórien’s Wealth (2)
Leave no Trace

Neutral:
Vilya
Keen as Lances

The are, for sure, a number of cards in this deck that I think have been included more for theme than for actual utility – one of those themes being that the art is by Magali Villeneuve… But anyway! I think it’ll be useful to run through the deck soon and look at some of these cards, such as the very expensive Gildor Inglorion, and replace them with cards that might be better-placed overall. I play Lord of the Rings pretty much exclusively solo with one deck, so all card spaces are at a premium for me. Having cards in there just because the art is nice, or something, is not a good idea. But I don’t want to break the theme too much – it is an elven deck, and I want to have something that works off this theme overall.

 

It feels so good to be back in Middle Earth right now!