I don’t write enough #throwbackThursday posts. Is that conceited of me, to think my past content is worth bringing to the fore again? Well, possibly. I do sometimes read over some of my older posts, often because I want to link back to something that is relevant to the current post, though sometimes I’ll stroll through the list of published blogs and be surprised by something, having no memory of having written it.
Anyway, enough with the preamble. I’ve recently had a max hankering after the Android Netrunner LCG that was published by Fantasy Flight between 2012-18. It was without a doubt one of my favourite games to own, let alone to play, and I would often spend hours building decks that, sadly, I had very little chance to play. Indeed, I think it was my enthusiasm, coupled with the lack of an outlet, that eventually drove me away from anything beyond solo/coop games because they were proving to be just a waste of money.
I love the game, and I love the idea of the game, and I’ve been looking at buying it again, which is such a fool’s errand when you think how long it’s been dead for. There’s a brand new, still-sealed core set on eBay right now for £80, and if I had any fair chance of playing it I would absolutely snap it up. But there really isn’t that fair chance, so I’ve just had to step away.
Maybe one day, it will get a new version, and I can try to seduce either my other half or, if they’re old enough by then, the kids into playing it with me. Until then, let’s just bask in how wonderful and amazing this beautiful game was!
Hey everybody, Just a quick catch-up with my Marvel Champions plays this week, as there haven’t been that many unfortunately! I have bought the Wolverine hero pack and Kang scenario pack, though, so will need to get them sleeved up and ready to play soon. Wolverine looks very powerful in aggression, and I’ve heard that he’s almost like playing on easy mode, so that’ll be interesting. I have been wanting to get the Kang pack for a while as well, but my LGS wasn’t able to get it so I’ve caved and picked it up from amazon, as I was getting some other bits anyway. There are now just eight hero packs left that I don’t have, which is a bit of a joke between me and my buddy Tony, who convinced me to get this last summer, as I distinctly remember telling him “I don’t think I’ll be buying everything for this game”…
On Monday, I had a game with Quicksilver and Phoenix against Taskmaster, which was quite fun because I almost knew what to expect, after playing the scenario a while back. I did get to rescue Elektra from the captured heroes pile, so it was nice to get a bit more of a feel for that game. Quicksilver is a great hero to play, I enjoyed seeing all of the tiny actions build up over time, especially seeing how powerful it could be to ready over and over. I think that was quite a revelation. Phoenix still eludes me, though – I’m beginning to think Justice might not be the best build for her, truth be told. I’ve said before that I want to try to play heroes as they come, and by and large I think that’s made the game so much better for me overall, but there’s just something about Phoenix that I’m just not getting, or something. For now, though, I have actually swapped some of her cards around so that I have a few different things going on, so we’ll see how that goes.
On Tuesday, I had a very fun game, Gamora and Drax vs Thanos. I have only played against the big bloke once previously, and I think I played it wrong because I was dealing damage to him when he has the side scheme that prevents all damage in play from the off. So I was trying to pay more attention this time around, and make sure the victory was not hollow when it eventually came! Gamora is a very powerful hero, though – Thanos has 23 hit points in his second stage, and Gamora sliced through 12 of those in a single activation, thanks to a number of events and other effects kicking off one another.
Finally, on Wednesday, I played Drax and Rocket Racoon vs The Collector, and had a whale of a time. When I first played this scenario, I hated it, because I didn’t understand the effects and so it was over very quickly. As I now know, only permanent cards go into the collection; events, boost cards, resource cards, etc – all of these never enter play, and so cannot go in. Despite the fact that things got pretty hairy for me towards the end, especially when I had to flip Rocket to heal him because he was in danger of elimination, therefore losing my main thwarter, I was able to defeat the Collector with only 7 cards in the collection. So that was great! I think this one, and to a lesser extent Thanos as well, go to show how good the game can be when the familiarity is there. The game is intricate, for sure, but it’s not impossible; there’s a good amount of back-and-forth that makes for just a really fun time.
So as you can see, I’ve been doing a lot with Drax this week, after picking him up at the end of February. I’ve put off buying this deck for a long time, I think mainly because Protection isn’t really an aspect that I enjoy playing. I tend to go for the justice or aggro decks, it seems! However, I was actually really impressed with how Drax plays. His thing is Vengeance counters, which increase his ATK by one for each counter on him (to a max of +3). He gets a counter whenever he is attacked by the villain, and if a counter cannot be placed, he gets to draw a card. To off-set wanting to be attacked, he has 14 hit points, which is quite impressive (Venom is the second-best Guardian, with 12, just in case you were interested). If he ever flips to alter-ego, he loses the counters but gets to heal 2 points for each counter removed, so it can be quite useful sometimes to flip over. However, to avoid having to build that back, we have Mantis in the hero cards who can exhaust and heal three damage (although she takes one in return). He also gets one of those “I’m not dead” cards which sets his dial to 4 health when he would be defeated. Otherwise, his signature cards are mainly around the desire to be attacking and to be attacked.
He has a hand of 4 in hero form, which always bothers me about a hero, but the designers seem to have thought about this, and most of his deck is cheap cards, so you shouldn’t be faced with the possibility of not being able to play anything. There is also the fact that he will draw a card if you can’t place a Vengeance counter, and he has the upgrade Dwi Theet Mastery which allows him to draw a card when he makes an attack. Drax’s Knife gives him +1 attack, and Drax’s Other Knife gives him Retaliate 1, which is a really nice combo to have! The most expensive card in his kit is Knife Leap, which could be 0-cost if you have the full 3 vengeance counters on him, and gives him +5 ATK with Overkill and Piercing, which can be very useful. If he’s at full Vengeance, he’s already attacking for 4; with his Knife that’s 5, then Knife Leap makes him attack at 10.
For zero cost, he has Fight Me, Coward! which readies him and draws a card, then you get attacked. If you’re already at full Vengeance, you’re drawing two cards off that. If you survive the attack, you can then play Payback for 0 cost, which deals damage to the villain equal to your ATK after the villain has attacked you, so you can potentially deal out 15 damage on a turn there, providing you survive the villain’s attack back to you, of course! To help you survive, of course, he also has Parry, which prevents an amount of damage equal to double his ATK, and it also costs 0. Rounding out his specific cards is Intimidation, which allows you to remove threat from a scheme equal to your ATK, which gives some nice flexibility.
Drax comes in Protection, as I said, and there are some very useful cards in the precon that help with what he is trying to do. Subdue costs 1 resource, and gives an enemy -3ATK when it activates, and we also have Deflection, which can prevent up to 5 damage but requires you to discard cards from the top of your deck for each damage prevented. Good in a pinch, though it always triggers a little anxiety from me as I worry about discarding something I wanted! The gold-standard Protection card, of course, is the 0-cost Counter-Punch, which allows you to deal damage back to an enemy when you defend against their attack. Defending is never much fun, of course, because it leaves you exhausted for your turn and, depending on the cards you’re playing, that can be a turn off that puts you behind. Of course, Fight Me, Coward! will ready Drax, but he also has Indomitable in the deck to allow him to ready after he defends, so he won’t have to take a turn off if he does so. Imagine the scenario outlined before; he defends an attack, plays Counter-Punch to deal 5 damage, then readies with Indomitable, meaning he can then deal out that 15 damage in the turn after. That will almost kill Thanos, and will certainly kill Ronan.
Another nice trick is Hard Knocks, which deals 4 damage to an enemy and, if that enemy is defeated, gives Drax a tough status card. So he can kill off a minion using this card, get the tough card, play Fight Me, Coward! to initiate the villain to attack him, but take no damage from that attack thanks to the tough card, after which he can then fight back freely. A good early-game play to build up the Vengeance counters without risking damage, for sure!
Something that I do feel the deck is missing, though, is more resource generation. I’ve recently begun to think a lot about those upgrades that allow you to generate resources, which I used to overlook. I think this is proof of my strategies evolving, as I have moved away from trying to just rush a villain and kill him off as quickly as possible. True, I have mainly done this because I want to actually see more of the game, and not simply press on and gain victory in two or three turns! But wherever possible, I think it’s good to try and build up the board, so I might not instantly attack if I can get away with it, or I might flip between hero and alter-ego to allow a turn of scheming to in turn allow me to get some planning done.
I have swapped out some cards now, anyway, hopefully in a way that will improve some of the set-plays I’ve been thinking about with him. I’ve removed all copies of Deflection and of Leading Blow, replacing them with Shake It Off and Enhanced Physique. I’ve also done some minor tweaks, mainly to get a third Counter-Punch but also I’ve got one copy of The Power of Protection in, to help with resourcing issues that may arise. I’m not sure that I’d actually need it, though, but I thought I’d try it out and see how I get on. I’ve actually been through Groot as the other Protection Guardian, but I haven’t really found anything of further interest in there. Groot has a big theme around hit points and taking precise amounts of damage, which I don’t think really leans into Drax that much. He also seems to want to defend more often, whereas I don’t have enough ways to ready Drax to allow for all that, if I’m honest! I was thinking about swapping the Gamora ally for Rocket, but have decided I actually want to try playing Drax and Rocket together some more, so I’ll avoid that for now. The Gamora ally has the useful ability of getting event cards into your hand, and Drax has many of them in the deck, but I can’t help feeling she would have been better getting events back from the discard pile instead. Ah well!
Hopefully this has all been of some interest to you, anyway! I’m thinking about trying to write up a session report soon for the game, so we shall see how I get on with that!
Hey everybody, I want to write a bit of a different style of blog today, a gaming session report with one of my favourite card games: the Star Wars LCG. I know, I’ve talked about this a lot last spring, but was ultimately unsuccessful in bringing the game to the table more than a couple of times. However, it remains one of my all-time favourite games, and so I have decided to just play both sides of the table myself. I happen to be one of those people who thinks the game is beautifully designed, and I’m such a huge fan of both this game and also the Star Wars universe that I was treating this much more like an opportunity to just immerse myself in the GFFA, and not thinking about trying to win as one side or another. The artwork is also out of this world, and consistently amazing, so that helps, too! As such, it worked out fairly well, making the best plays that I could with each round.
After playing against my wife with Rebel and Imperial decks, I thought instead I would go for some Jedi and Sith decks for this little venture, and see where they get me. So let’s take a look at what is on the table!
The Jedi Deck
The Jedi are playing a fairly standard deck built from cards from the core set only, but which includes some really big names overall. The ten objective sets are:
So we have two copies each of Luke, Ben and Yoda, with a whole bunch of Jedi in Hiding, and the like, which should give some utility during the game. Yoda in particular requires a few enhancement cards to give him some more power, although there aren’t as many within the deck to buff him too much. Could be an oversight, I guess we’ll see! But there is a part of me that thinks the main thrust of this deck is going to come from the number of bodies that can be fielded overall. I think this deck is going to see a lot of small-scale things that will add up over time, rather than having big flashy stuff going on all the time. Though I do like the fact there are four copies of Jedi Mind Trick here, which can help to drown the opponent in focus tokens as the game goes on!
The Sith Deck
This deck is a little more wide-ranging than the Jedi deck, as it includes cards from the deluxe expansion and the Hoth cycle. The ten objective sets are as follows:
There are some heavy-hitters in here, with Darth Vader and Emperor Palpatine heading things up. Vader in particular is a great unit, albeit costing a hefty 5 resources. Every time the Dark Side player plays an event card, he deals one damage to a unit, and there are enough event cards in the deck that this should be getting quite a bit of value over the game. Palpatine in addition can return event cards from the discard pile to the hand, so even with a few events being played, it’s good to keep recycling things. I quite like the fact that there are four Force Choke events in here, which also deals one damage to a character or creature – so you can play the event for one damage, Vader deals one damage, when an objective is destroyed the Emperor can bring that event back into the hand, and we just do it all over again! There are also two copies of Heat of Battle, the fate card that deals one damage to a participating unit.
The game begins with the Dark Side playing a Sith Library for the additional resource, but options are limited this round so out comes a Force Wraith and it is committed to the Force.
The Light Side player plays Jedi in Hiding and Believer in the Old Ways, and focuses both to strike at the Counsel of the Sith objective. No defenders are declared, so two damage plus a bonus unopposed damage are dealt.
The Force is with the DS player, however.
DS player brings out Darth Vader and strikes, winning the edge battle and placing two damage on Hit and Run, plus a bonus damage for unopposed. Vader is then committed to the Force, as he has Elite so removes two tokens during the refresh phase regardless.
LS player brings out another Believer in the Old Ways, and a Guardian of Peace. The Jedi in Hiding is enhanced with Shi-Cho Training, which is reduced to 0 cost thanks to the effect on In You Must Go. Both the Believers are focused to strike, and the Force Wraith is declared as a defender. LS player wins the edge battle with two copies of Heat of Battle, destroying the Force Wraith. The LS player destroys Counsel of the Sith, winning their first objective card!
DS player comes back swinging. Plays a Force Shockwave to deal 1 damage to each enemy unit not currently committed to the Force, which is all of them; this destroys the Jedi in Hiding and each other unit is down to one hit point. Because he played a Sith event, Vader allows for an additional damage to be dealt to an enemy unit, destroying the Guardian of Peace. He then enhances the remaining Believers with Dark Memories, meaning they will die the next time they are focused.
Vader is then focused to strike, and destroys the Hit and Run objective. The DS dial moves up to 6.
LS player refreshes and plays Luke Skywalker, who is immediately focused to strike at The Ghosts of the Dark Side. With no defenders, the attack goes through unopposed, but the DS player did play Heat of Battle in the edge stack, so Luke suffers one point of damage.
The DS player remains in a very strong position, with another Sith Library allowing for six resources per phase. A Nightsister is brought out, and Vader is enhanced with his Lightsaber. He then plays a Force Choke to deal damage to Luke, dealing an additional damage thanks to Vader’s ability, which the LS player deflects to one of the Believers with Lightsaber Deflection. The Nightsister and Vader are then focused to strike at the Forgotten Heroes objective, dealing four damage thanks to the unopposed bonus. The Nightsister is committed to the Force to deal the final point of damage to the objective, claiming it for the DS.
Things aren’t looking that great for the LS!
The turn begins with a Dagobah training grounds, finally giving some much needed resources. Yoda comes out for the LS as well, and as a final shot, he plays a Jedi Mind Trick on Vader to add an additional focus token to the Dark Lord. Luke is focused to strike and does so unopposed, destroying the Ghosts of the Dark Side objective for the second card. Yoda and the remaining Believer are committed to the Force to bring the balance of the Force to the light side.
The DS player draws Palpatine, and actually has the resources to play him, but decides instead to bring out another Force Wraith and a Dark Side Apprentice, to apply further pressure. The DS Apprentice and Force Wraith are focused to strike, and two damage is dealt to the Jedi Training objective, plus a bonus one for unopposed. The DS player then plays another Force Choke to deal 1 damage to Yoda, and kills him off with Vader’s ability.
The Force Wraith is then committed to the Force and, thanks to clearing away Yoda, and the fact the Wraith counts his icons in the Force struggle even when exhausted, the balance of the Force swings back to the DS.
It all comes down to this!
The LS player plays another Believer, and another Guardian of Peace, and uses Our Most Desperate Hour to place a shield token on Luke. Luke and the Believer are then focused to strike, with the Nightsister coming in to defend. The LS wins the edge battle, and with Target of Opportunity deals one damage to the objective, Serve the Emperor, and Heat of Battle destroys the Nightsister. Luke and the Believer then deal three damage to the objective between them, and a fourth point comes from being unopposed, meaning the third objective is destroyed and the LS win!
I really enjoyed that, aside perhaps from the fact I was running back and forth between both sides of the table! As I said at the start, though, I had hoped merely to immerse myself in the game, and to enjoy it unfolding without really trying to outsmart myself, if that makes sense? I suppose it’s a bit like how I watch battle reports on youtube (when I have the time to do so, of course!) I wouldn’t necessarily root for one side or the other, I’m watching to see the cinematic moments of a game as it unfolds before me. As such, I think it worked quite well, anyway.
Something that I really enjoyed was seeing how things came together on both sides of the table. The Sith deck clearly had some idea of playing Vader then playing event cards to deal additional damage, and that worked out so well with Vader being able to clear off Yoda, and almost clearing off Luke. Indeed, the moment that Lightsaber Deflection was played to save Luke really was inspired! Some mistakes were definitely made – for example, why on earth did I feel the need to commit Vader to the Force? Even if he has Elite to remove both focus tokens he gets when striking, he doesn’t remove them until the start of the next round, when the Balance phase has already been and gone, so those Force icons have no meaning! Bah.
I really wasn’t expecting a Jedi win, though. I think I had worked it out in my head that the Force would stay with the Dark Side, and they’d just tick the Death Star dial up until the game ended. Being able to tip the balance back with Yoda was both entirely appropriate and a huge benefit, as it meant there was one turn when the dial only ticked up once. Being able to do this meant that the Jedi were somewhat able to stabilise and so the final round really did matter. That fate card dealing one point of damage to the objective was such an innocuous thing at the start of the fight though, because up until I realised I was unopposed and could place the fifth point of damage, I hadn’t actually realised the Jedi were able to win! So victory came entirely out of the blue and was a real surprise!
Interestingly, the game actually took an hour to play like this, as well. I know I still had to look up some of the interactions and stuff, and try to remember all of the rules, but it didn’t seem to add on too laboriously by playing both sides of the table. That said, though, games of Star Wars LCG notoriously go quickly, in part because of the Death Star Dial timer that is baked in to the game. I almost wish there was a way to make things go slower, because there are so often aspects of the game that never seem to come up because it’s over so aggressively, like units defending (and actually surviving). All too often, it feels like the game comes down to a rush of “who can deal the most damage first” rather than any sense of building a plan and executing it.
That said, the game remains so unique, and the Star Wars flavour is really there. I think the fact that the Dark Side player can basically sit back and see what happens, picking his fights but otherwise just waiting for that dial to tick up, is quite interesting, really. The Light Side has got such an uphill struggle from the off, and simply must play aggressively, that it leads to a very interesting dynamic that is extremely evocative of the source material.
Just goes to show, I guess, that playing this way can still be a lot of fun! I hope that I can play it “properly” in the future, of course, but at least I know, even if I end up only ever playing against myself like this, it’s going to make for some interesting times.
The Jedi deck seemed to be a little bit underpowered in comparison to the Sith deck, so I think it might be time to do some tinkering with it. Deckbuilding within Star Wars LCG is always a fascinating concept, of course, because of the objective set structure of the game.
Looking through the cards in the deck, I think there are possibly two sets that I could cut quite easily. The first one I looked at was The Secret of Yavin 4. The only card I actually want to keep out of this set is Lightsaber Deflection, which came in so useful during the game to keep Luke alive. However, with only one card out of the deck being “wanted”, I think it’s quite a straightforward thing to cut. I’ve replaced it with Self Preservation, which comes from the Hoth cycle (I’m still building decks up to this point, for the time being!) The objective itself grants units +1 Force icon for the Force struggle, which is very useful. The set has two units, who get better when the Force is with the Light side, but it’s really the other cards that I want from this set. Soresu Training is an enhancement that gives the target unit shielding and +1 damage capacity. Unwavering Resolve is an event that allows you to count a unit’s Force icons for the Force struggle without committing that unit to the Force, and even if the unit is exhausted. Finally, there’s another copy of Heat of Battle. So that should be a really impactful set.
Next, Hit and Run was pretty much only useful because of the Target of Opportunity fate card, but nothing else in the set really came into play. I’m therefore going to replace it with A Journey to Dagobah, which also has a copy of that fate card in there, but also has the Double Strike event which allows you to strike with a unit, then remove a focus token from it. That should allow for all types of shenanigans through the game. It also has Red Five, which has three blast damage icons on the card, so can deal a significant amount of damage to objectives when it comes out, especially as they’re not edge-dependent.
Now. My next dilemma is that I have four other objective sets in this deck, all in duplicate. The Luke objective set contains all sorts of useful cards, so I don’t want to get rid of that one any time soon. Jedi Training has got a lot of useful things as well, and the objective itself contributes one icon to the Force struggle, so I don’t really want to get rid of one of those either. That leaves the Yoda and the Obi-Wan sets. Yoda has some good bits, but the Obi-Wan set is mainly there for Heat of Battle and Jedi Mind Trick, which I’ve got from elsewhere in the deck as well, so I’m going to cut one of those sets for another copy of Self Preservation for the time being. It’s quite a difficult call of course, because I was very tempted by another copy of A Journey to Dagobah, but I also want to try Last Minute Rescue because there seems to be a lot of useful healing-type cards in that set, and I think they could have come in very useful during the game played today! However, I don’t want to go changing too much in this deck all at once.
The Sith deck seemed to function quite well, by comparison, so I don’t think it needs to have much in the way of tinkering just yet. Maybe in the fullness of time I’ll be swapping some bits and pieces in and out of there as well, but for now it can stay as it is.
So there we go, possibly my first “batrep” style of blog! I’m not sure if any of this was interesting, and certainly as the game has been dead for years, whether people still want to read this kind of thing! I think I might try it again soon with something like Marvel Champions, because that is a huge favourite for me at the moment!
Hey everybody, Today’s game day is really a celebration of the fact that I have now completed my goal of playing ten games of Marvel Champions this year. Unsurprisingly, given the recent spate of playing in January, it wasn’t too long before I hit my goal! The game is just so nice and straightforward to play, it really is very easy to get it to the table!
In the main, I’ve been playing with both the Red Skull and the X-Men campaign expansions – although I haven’t been playing them as a campaign. I’ve made it to game four (Zola) in the Red Skull box, and the Sentinels in the X-Men (playing Sabretooth twice). It’s been a lot of fun, and I think I’ve gotten into a bit of a flow with it now, where I have some go-to heroes that I enjoy playing and so simply shuffle up and play!
The Red Skull box has been just great. I’ve been playing this with Hawkeye and Black Widow, with their pre-con decks, and it’s been an absolute blast. Of the four, I think Crossbones was definitely one of my favourites to go up against – indeed, he’s one of my all-time favourite enemies to play against, based on how that game went! Absorbing Man was a bit lacklustre, though I think it could be different based on different modular encounter sets and so on, and I think it would be interesting to go up against him again.
Taskmaster was probably one of the more disappointing scenarios, I think because I didn’t trigger enough of what makes the scenario stand out (rescuing allies). I think that would definitely bear playing again, to see if it will work out differently for me. Finally, I went up against Zola yesterday and, while I had read some horror stories about him online, I didn’t think he was quite so bad as I had perhaps been led to believe. There are so many more minions than I have seen of late, of course, and it was interesting that he has Retaliate 1, meaning that most allies were dying off after just a couple of rounds of attacking him. However, it was still a good game to play against him, I didn’t really feel like it was a nightmare running away with me at any time.
In terms of the X-Men box, I thought that Sabretooth was a bit messy at times, but the Sentinels scenario was just incredible! I have already mentioned this in my January retrospective, but I cannot stress just how enjoyable it was to play this one – it wasn’t easy, of course, and it was at times quite awful, but it just felt like how I would expect an X-Men scenario to play. There were some especially cinematic moments around Sentinel minions popping up, and Cyclops getting marked for death and so on.
I had a huge influx of Marvel Champions content in December, of course, but I have still picked up a few extra bits since! Last week, I bought The Hood scenario pack, mainly because I’d gone into my local games shop looking for the Phoenix hero pack and she wasn’t in stock! However, The Hood is one of those interesting expansions to a game whereby the designers do something a little different to the norm, and it was wriggling around at the back of my mind about picking him up sooner rather than later. The “gimmick” with the pack is that he has nine new modular encounter sets, plus alternative sets for Standard and Expert which crank up the difficulty of each. While these new modular sets are all themed roughly around the Street Level heroes within the Marvel universe, with a very loose Criminal theme tying them together, they’re still independent enough that they could be slotted into any other scenario in the game.
The Hood himself uses up to seven of them, although he only starts play with one shuffled into his deck, and each villain stage shuffles one more in. I think the main scheme shuffles more in as it advances, too, though I was able to stay on stage 1B for the whole game, so I didn’t trigger that. He actually makes for quite an interesting game, though, because his “thing” is the Foul Play mechanic, where you discard the top of the encounter deck and, if that card isn’t part of The Hood’s own scenario, you deal it to yourself as an encounter card. There are numerous ways to trigger this during the game, and so I think I easily saw the whole deck almost twice. I used Crossfire’s Crew as the modular set shuffled in at the start, then when I defeated the first villain stage I shuffled in Streets of Mayhem, which is a nice set of environments that simply add effects like Retaliate 1, +1 attack, Steady, etc. They’re global effects, but they do also have Surge, so there can sometimes be a lot going on with him!
I definitely enjoyed trying him out, anyway – for theme, I used my Spider-Man deck alongside Doctor Strange, and while the former is one that I’ve thrown together myself, the latter is mostly the pre-con. I say this because I think it’s interesting to contrast how both of yesterday’s games went. Zola wasn’t easy, but he was enjoyable in part due to the fact Hawkeye and Black Widow work so well together, and The Hood wasn’t a cakewalk but was also pretty fun to go up against, again because I know the Spider-Man deck, and Doctor Strange can have some very powerful effects.
Knowing the deck is a much bigger deal than I thought it would be, though. Having only played Doctor Strange once, I found myself a little confused at times at what I was planning to do with cards – indeed, at one point I played nothing and ended up having to discard cards, because I had drawn my hand when in alter-ego form, then flipped to the hero side. In contrast, a deck like Black Widow is interesting because you know that you want to get as many Preparations out as possible, and you know that there are some key cards that you should aim to get out early to help with the economy, etc.
It’s a really great game, and I particularly enjoy the fact that it’s the sort of game that you can just pick up and play, without a great deal of fuss to it. I really enjoy it, anyway, and I don’t think I will be stopping now that I’ve reached those 10 plays for 2023. Indeed, it wouldn’t surprise me if I end the year having played this one a hundred times…
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!
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.
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!!
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 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!
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 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 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!
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!
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.
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.
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.)
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!
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:
Perhaps one of the most important expansions was the Legends deluxe box, which brought a new card type to the game: Legends (surprising, that!)
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.
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.
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!