Deck building in Middle Earth

Following on from yesterday’s post about my recent adventures in the shadow of Mordor, I thought I’d continue in that vein a little longer and waffle about my decks that I had built for the game, and share some observations on their performance, etc. I know that Lord of the Rings LCG isn’t a competitive game, and so it can seem a bit like it relies more on personal choice as to what you include in your deck, but nevertheless, I find this kind of thing interesting!

Both decks are tri-sphere, and so resource matching can be horrendous to manage at times! The first deck involves Aragorn (leadership), Legolas (tactics), and Glorfindel (spirit). I’ve got two attachments in the deck that go on Aragorn to give him the spirit and tactics icons, to help smooth that out, and there’s another attachment I’ve given to him that gives an extra resource each round. Nevertheless, it can be very tricky at times to get this moving in the right direction.

In a way, I do feel as though the resource match rule is the most punishing aspect of this game, as you need a total match, it’s not like the Star Wars LCG, where at least one resource needs to come from the relevant faction. Cards like Haldir, for instance, aren’t coming out until turn 4, whereas the encounter deck is at you straightaway, turn 1. I do often think about trying to implement a house rule of using the Star Wars matching system, but I think that could bring its own problems. The alternative that has also crossed my mind is having at least one free pass/starting with more than one resource token per hero when playing a tri-sphere deck.

Anyway, it’s beginning to sound like I’m complaining about the game, but this is a blog post about deck building!

Up until about 18 months ago, I played this game exclusively solo, with one deck of three heroes. However, since playing with two decks has opened up the multiplayer co-op aspect so much, I don’t think I’d ever go back! However, I think I’m still in that former mindset with using tri-sphere, and should probably think about shifting things around so that the two spirit heroes are together, and the two tactics heroes are together. Making decks dual-sphere decks are a lot easier to manage, of course, but I think that would potentially open up an issue as regards how the encounter deck targets the first player in the Vengeance of Mordor cycle.

See, having a good range of Ranged and Sentinel characters on both sides means (in theory, at least!) that I can attack and defend from both decks, no matter where the attacks are coming from. This is something that took me a while to get to grips with, if I’m honest, as the single deck approach meant those keywords were meaningless for me for so many years. As they tend to be in specific spheres, too, it would need careful planning to rearrange the decks, so for now I’m just plodding on!

In my Faramir deck, I have a spread of Song cards, the original Mirkwood Songs that grant different icons to the heroes they’re attached to. Now, invariably in this game, you’ll draw cards for the wrong hero, leaving one stuck with most of the tokens because you’re not drawing anything they can play. Perfect target for a Song, normally! I found it interesting in my last game, though, that no good target really presented himself, because I was drawing a good spread of cards so was managing fine – the best use I could put these Songs to was discarding for travel effects!

I suppose this is the interesting thing about this sort of card game, though. Due to shuffling your deck, your cards are randomised, so you never really know what you’re going to get next. Obvious, I know, but in practice this can mean you draw really well, or you only draw event cards whose triggers just aren’t coming up. Or you only draw leadership cards, meaning you end up with the Bank of Legolas or something.

This is why “search your deck” effects can be so useful, as not only do you have the chance to go look for exactly what you need, but you also (usually!) have to shuffle your deck afterwards. Any additional shuffle is usually very useful, I find – regardless of the fact that most of the game is often down to luck of the draw, it just feels good to shuffle your deck when you’re not drawing anything useful, because it feels like you’re going to change the game. Regardless of the fact that Galadhrim’s Greeting might well have been the next card you were going to draw, anyway!!

So, heroes having multiple spheres is very useful, the Ranged and Sentinel keywords are very useful, and being able to search for specific cards is very useful. The fourth “pillar” to all of this is, of course, getting multiple uses out of your characters, particularly heroes. Aragorn has this ability natively, of course, where you can pay one resource from his pool to ready him when he has committed to the quest. Given his all-round great stats, plus Sentinel, makes this really useful, but it does assume that you have the resources to pay for it. Light of Valinor is just made for Glorfindel, as it means the guy doesn’t exhaust to quest in the first place. Stuff like Leather Boots, which allow the attached to character to ready when a certain card is revealed from the encounter deck, is also really good, although somewhat situational. I mean, if Faramir has his boots on, and only enemies come out of the deck, you’re stuck with a Ranger character who can’t do anything to help out.

The gold standard in these types of cards is, of course, Unexpected Courage, which allows you to ready the attached hero, regardless of what has happened. I’m not sure a character can defend, then attack back, all that often, but this allows you to do that. (As another side note about the rules in general, I don’t understand why characters have to throw themselves in the line of fire without getting to retaliate. There should either be a kind of simultaneous combat, or a rule that allows a defender, if he survives the attack, to attack back before attackers are declared properly. But maybe that would skew things too much, as well).

The final subset of cards worth mentioning is not that well-represented in these decks, but I would say is still fairly important – the ‘cancel’ effect cards, and other generally playing-outside-the-rules. So cards such as A Test of Will, which cancels the when revealed effect of a card from the encounter deck, or the lore events that ignore the threat of a location or an enemy in the staging area, giving you some questing room. Direct damage cards are also useful, as they bypass the need for engaging enemies, though obviously there are Dúnedain cards that want you to be engaged. Tactics has a variety of cards that allow you to directly attack an enemy, which used to confuse me a bit because I thought I was engaging those enemies as well. Nope. Hands Upon the Bow, for example, let’s you attack someone at +1 to that attack, without the need for enduring an attack coming from that enemy first. It’s a really powerful effect, especially on a heavy-hitting hero tooled up with something like a Rivendell Blade, which reduces the defence on that enemy.

With all of these card types to take into account, along with a sprinkling of buffs and other one-time events, it’s no wonder I’m enjoying the game much more since I stopped playing just the one deck! In all honesty, playing two-handed has almost been like learning how to play the game anew, but it’s been really quite a great experience to see all of these effects and combos come out as I’ve done so! There will always be bad hands drawn, even after a mulligan, but sometimes, you get to draw Light of Valinor for Glorfindel in your opening hand three games in a row. And that, my friends, is glorious!!

A Shadow in the East

Hey everybody,
Today’s blog is perhaps unsurprisingly taking us into Middle Earth, following on from last week’s exciting discussion of new decks for the game! I’m currently investigating the later cycles for the game, having pretty much stopped playing the game regularly during the fourth cycle, The Voice of Isengard. So, even though this expansion was released back in 2018, it’s new to me!

A Shadow in the East starts off when the heroes are resting in Dale, after the previous cycle’s adventures had concluded. Envoys from Dorwinion, in the east, arrive with news of spreading darkness – disappearances, mainly, but with no army for defence, the people have turned to King Brand for aid. The heroes volunteer for the mission, and off we go!

The first scenario, The River Running, reminds me a great deal of the first scenario from The Voice of Isengard – being relentlessly pursued by enemies, this time, Easterlings. We have a tremendous amount of pressure exerted through the Objective card, which forces the arrival of more enemies every third round. Coupled with this is a set-aside Side Quest, and the annoying number of Treachery cards which, for this scenario, function as attachments for enemies! Don’t get me wrong, I like that mechanic, and was surprised it took so long to be implemented in the game, but even so, it does make things so much more difficult!!

Assuming that we make it out alive, our next task is to head for the city of Dorwinion, built on the shores of the sea of Rhûn. Here, we learn that people have been disappearing, so we head out into the city to investigate.

Danger in Dorwinion is the second scenario, and bears a striking resemblance to the first scenario from the Against the Shadow cycle, The Steward’s Fear. We’re running round a city, ferreting out a cult; we have a random cultist enemy to defeat, and a random objective revealed to affect the game. It’s almost like being back in the realm of Gondor!

This scenario plays greatly around the threat level, and everything coalesces really quite catastrophically for the heroes, the way that the encounter deck just keeps on raising the threat. I actually lost half of the team when the Faramir/Dúnhere/Elladan side threated-out.

If we’re able to survive, one of the cultist prisoners tells us that cityfolk have been taken to a hidden temple in the Hills of Rhûn, and so we March onwards!

The Temple of Doom concludes the deluxe expansion, and is interesting to me in that it was complicated in terms of how it shakes up the main rules, but didn’t feel impossible like some third scenarios can be. We have a quest deck where each stage goes into the victory display upon completion; the number of stages there informs the threat level of the boss, Thane Ulchor, who cannot be defeated until there are 4 stages in the victory display, and there’s a side quest that cannot be completed until Thane Ulchor has 0HP left, at which point we win. That side quest is working against us though, as every fourth round it’ll force us to draw from the Power of Mordor deck; we have another boss, the Tower of Barad-Dur location (which can never be traveled to, and reduces the threat elimination level by 5), and three obnoxious objectives. With just five cards in the deck, the maths-savvy among us will realise that this means we have 23 rounds to defeat the whole thing (if you cannot draw from the Power of Mordor deck, you lose). But there are also other effects going on that will speed this up – yikes!

For all of the complicated goings-on here, it wasn’t particularly bad to play through, as the encounter deck is predominantly location cards and treacheries, and both decks I was using to play have got significant willpower output when I get them going, which has happened really quite well so far in this play-through! Regularly throwing out 20+ willpower for the quest, with numerous ways to re-use heroes for combat as well, has meant that it was fairly okay. I’m not trying to call it easy, far from it, but it didn’t feel that bad.

I wonder if I would find some of the earlier quests easier with these decks, as they benefit from the entirety of the card pool…

Story-wise, we have an unexpected call-back to an earlier villain (is it a spoiler if we’re over 4 years since this came out?) and we seem to be firmly in Sauron-country for the foreseeable future. There is a definite Against the Shadow feel to this cycle so far, so I’m intrigued as to where the story is going to take us as we move further into the cycle.

Difficulty ratings are not really something that you can really trust, yet I was still surprised that Danger in Dorwinion only merited a 5, when I was just one round from losing. True, I’ve lost to Passage through Mirkwood before now, and that rating is 1, but even so, this feels much more difficult than The Dead Marshes, but both have the same difficulty! Interestingly, it also shares that rating with The Steward’s Fear. But perhaps there’s a perceived ease about The Dead Marshes, as I’ve played that scenario quite a lot now.

This kinda brings me on to the next point, anyway. These later quests really don’t feel like the same game as those earlier ones. Maybe I’m just too struck on the Shadows of Mirkwood cycle, but I do have incredible nostalgia for that one, and there feels like too much going on in these later quests to really give the same sort of feeling. I can’t quite describe it, but I much prefer my hundredth run through Emyn Muil, say, than these new things. Maybe I’m just becoming a grouchy old man…

For all that, though, I am really enjoying finally getting to see what the later quests are all about. They’re often difficult, with a lot to keep track of, but it’s good to play them all the same. I don’t think I’m going to be in for an easy time of it, however, as I head into the cycle itself!

Lord of the Rings LCG: the road goes ever on

After yesterday’s blog where I decided that I wanted to play some Lord of the Rings LCG again, I did in fact get a game in with the first scenario from A Shadow in the East, The River Running. I was using two of my favourite decks to attempt the scenario, elves (headed by Legolas, Elrond and Glorfindel) and dwarves (Daín Ironfoot, Ori and Óin). These decks have been used for many years as I took on a variety of quests from early in the game’s run, always to quite magnificent results. The dwarf deck is something of a powerhouse when it gets going, thanks to the fact that dwarves as a theme have been so well-explored as a deck type. The elves do sometimes need a bit more planning, but the deck is still quite successful. Together, I thought they’d be tremendous!

Well, that was my first mistake. I think the reliance on cards from comparatively early in the game, when playing scenarios from the eighth and final cycle really showed how far things had come along! Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of cards from the core set that have retained their power throughout the whole life of the game, and thanks to my general confusion at times (it’s been almost a year since I last played!) I did manage to get through it in one piece!

But I’ve decided that I want to pretty much entirely redesign my decks, because there is a huge plethora of cards that I’m not using, and by sticking to themes so rigidly I’m missing out on too much. When I was building the two decks for my journey into Angmar, I took a wildly different approach to the norm, and it really paid off for me, I think.

I’ve therefore completely disassembled the dwarf deck ( which, in fairness, relied a lot on Underground/Mountain/Dark locations triggering effects, anyway), and the elf deck has been stripped down to be rebuilt with Aragorn in the mix. That’s right, original, core set Aragorn! Those old cards still have a lot of power, remember!

I like having him in a deck, even if his starting threat is pretty huge, though that is offset in a deck which also has the Spirit version of Glorfindel, because they still only start at 26 in total. I’ve got a lot of Spirit cards in the deck, but Aragorn has that stone attachment which also gives him specifically the Spirit icon, so it’s good that way.

I’ve pulled in cards from all across the history of the game, which is very exciting, so that I can get some interesting stuff going on – well, I hope it’s going to be interesting! One of the things that has surprised me with this deck is the extent to which I’m going to be able to buff willpower, but I’m hoping that it will be a good all-rounder, as the heroes have good attacking strength, too.

This deck is broadly still elves, then, with some more cards added in from the realms of men, to supplement Aragorn’s presence. I think I’ve tried, so far as possible, to have an equal spread among the three spheres. It’s something that I invariably struggle with in games of Lord of the Rings LCG, having one sphere where I either get no cards, or too many cards, so one hero ends up with all the resources because they don’t have anything to play.

I’ve tried to mitigate against that in my revamped Rohan deck, however, by using the full suite of Song cards to share out icons.

The major change to this deck came about when I decided to use the elf twins, Elladan and Elrohir, in some capacity. Elladan as a Tactics hero and Elrohir as a Spirit ally was running around my head, so the Rohan triumvirate of Dúnhere, Éomer and Theodred came to an end! But as with dwarves and elves before them, it had served me well! The original deck was dual-sphere, but I’ve decided to broaden things out with the addition of Faramir as a Lore hero. He brings with him the Gondor theme, as well as a bunch of interesting attachments. It’s another interesting, all-rounder deck, and I think it could be nice to run alongside the Aragorn deck to get a good Fellowship feel going!

At any rate, it felt like it was going to be A Task to build new decks for this game, but as it turned out, I’ve really enjoyed it! I think it’s definitely getting me excited for cracking on with the Vengeance of Mordor cycle, at any rate!! However, looking through the card pool has made me really nostalgic for the earlier quests

May Plans

Somehow, I’m on quite the blog-writing streak here at the minute, I think this is day 16 now, which is quite exciting! Amid all of the rambles, though, I feel like I need to get a bit more focused. I’m very much in a Star Wars mood at the moment, and combined with a return to board gaming, I seem to be moving away from what has been my main hobby for the last eight years now, miniature war games. I did touch on this on Friday, but I think I need to try to strike more of a balance, and see if I can keep up the games while also enjoying a bit more of the plastic hobby. I have the coming week off work (which is just as well, really, because I’m in the middle of some pretty intense training at the moment!) so thought it would perhaps be a good time to recalibrate, and whatnot.

So, to start with, I want to try to press on with the Black Legion bits that I’m in the middle of painting. I may have said this before, but I find it difficult to come back to projects when they’re halfway finished, so I do need to keep on with these guys before it’s another couple of years before they’re fully painted. I’m not going to go any further than this for the time being: I wouldn’t say that I’m in a hobby slump per se, but I’m definitely in that realm of feeling a bit overwhelmed with just how much I’ve got going on, so don’t want to plan ahead beyond the one immediate project for now!!

It’s no secret that I have a lot of armies on my plate, but in the last week I’ve started to take some action here, and have listed my Blood Angels on eBay to try and trim down. As it stands, I’m hoping to get around £100 for the lot, which would be nice, and traditionally I would almost immediately plough that back into Games Workshop’s coffers, but I’m hoping that I can be more circumspect this time around, and resist the allure of new shiny stuff. I still want to off-load more models, including my Nighthaunt, so hopefully I’ll be feeling a bit better about the hobby and stuff once I’ve cleared away some of the chaff. It’s amazing how much noise is in my head from the variety of projects that I have at the moment.

I’m very keen to give the new Kill Team a try – well, especially seeing as how it isn’t really “new” any more. This would kinda play into the Black Legion that I’ve been painting up as well, as I could start painting those models that were built up from the Nachmund set, though at this point I have quite a few sets of miniatures from which to draw – including AdMech and Genestealer Cults from the White Dwarf rules.

Unfortunately, nobody around here appears to be that into Kill Team right now, I think in part as a result of a general downer on 9th Edition 40k that seems to be led by the main group from my local GW. So it may be a bit of an uphill struggle on that one!

I do need to finish building the terrain from Nachmund though, at which point I may just try it out with me taking on both sides, just to see how the ruleset works. I may have a better chance of convincing people if I’ve got a better grasp of the rules!

So far, then, I don’t think my plans for the month are particularly onerous! Finish painting five/six models, build up some terrain, and maybe read over some campaign books!

Of course, I’m still really keen to play lots of other games that I own, and have been enjoying quite a variety of them in recent weeks. I’m still trying to convince Jemma that the Star Wars LCG is worth playing, and I’m still in the middle of the jungle in the Forgotten Age campaign, but I’ve recently also been thinking a lot about Lord of the Rings LCG. It’s widely been referred to on my blog here as my favourite game, and I think that holds true for the first couple of cycles of the game. But somewhere around the Voice of Isengard, I just lost interest due to the game becoming so incredibly difficult to play solo.

There are about six full cycles that I have not yet played, and last year I made an effort to change that, playing my way through The Lost Realm before once again getting distracted. Now, I have a vague memory of playing through the first three scenarios in the Angmar Awakened cycle as well, and even mentioned it here on the blog, but I didn’t record it on my BGG stats, and I don’t actually remember the scenarios themselves, either, so in confusion I’ve somewhat given up for the time being.

I still want to play this game, though, so I’m thinking that I’m going to go straight in for the final cycle of the game, the Vengeance of Mordor! This should be interesting, as from what I remember of it from promotional stuff at the time, we get to explore some fairly interesting aspects of Middle Earth, and we get something of a unique look at the world. So that’s pretty exciting! Although I may not be saying that when I’ve been beaten into submission by the scenario!

I’m hoping to get started with it while I’m off, anyway, so stay tuned for more updates there!!

The Lost Realm

Hey everybody,

I’m not sure if I’m actually going to reinstate the whole Tuesday-game-day thing in 2021, but hopefully I can write more about my games here as the year goes on! We’re now in Lockdown #3 here in the UK, where staying home is pretty much the new way of life for us, so what’s better than playing loads of games, right?! Today, I thought I’d have a bit of a ramble about my latest endeavour, playing through more of the Lord of the Rings scenarios that I’ve never explored. Given that the game ended last year (well, went on hiatus), I’m probably a bit late to this party! But it’s among my all-time favourite games, and I want to devote more time to it.

Lord of the Rings LCG

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you might have noticed a slip here – I’ve long thought of Lord of the Rings LCG as “my favourite game”, even when it was curb-stomping me, and even when I wasn’t playing it regularly. Now, however, I’m much more into Arkham Horror LCG as being a better overall game experience, though I come back to Middle Earth for the nostalgia trip!

Anyway.

Over Christmas, I decided to make the effort to play at least one full cycle from one of the five or six later ones that I’d never taken the time to explore, and settled eventually on the Angmar Awakened cycle. This one begins with The Lost Realm deluxe expansion, which brings the game into the north of Middle Earth, and explores the area to the north of the Shire, in the Lost Realm of Arnor. Hence the name!

There is a very strong Dúnedain theme developed across the player cards of the cycle, where the main focus is around engaging enemies. It was recently pointed out to me that this theme was telegraphed from way back in the core set with Son of Arnor, which I find pretty neat.

As the cycle moved on, and certainly as further cards came out in subsequent cycles, we’ve seen the Dúnedain theme become quite strong, rewarding players for engaging multiple enemies (although, I have to say, there are few defensive cards associated with the trait than I’d like!) It’s almost a high risk strategy, which sort of brings me to the next new thing in this cycle, Valour. A lot of cards have two effects, labelled Action and Valour Action. The Valour Action can only be triggered if your threat is above 40, but usually gives a much bigger effect – such cards have effects like ‘ready a character you control’ for the normal Action, and ‘ready all characters’ for the Valour Action.

But let’s talk about the quests in this box!

There are three, of course, and they’re all pretty middling difficulty, if I’m honest. I think this is due to the new Side Quest mechanic introduced in this cycle – cards that are shuffled into either your player deck, if it’s a player side quest, or into the encounter deck, and which act as an alternative to the main quest going on. Obviously, they depend upon being drawn to have an effect (although the second scenario, The Weather Hills, does instruct you to set one up in stage 2B), and having one (or more!) in play can make things extremely difficult!

Side quests are almost like extra active locations, in a sense – progress is placed there instead of the ‘main’ quest, and completing the quest does not advance the quest deck. Player quests can have some powerful effects, whereas encounter side quests can bolster enemies in play, so need to be removed!

The first scenario is Intruders in Chetwood, and serves to set the story up. The heroes are helping the Dúnedan Rangers in clearing out some Orcs that are marauding through Bree. In many ways, it’s similar to scenarios of the past – we have the objective-ally Iârion whom we need to keep alive, in a scenario full of enemies and nasty effects, some of which can trap him.

The Weather Hills is a bit more brutal, as we pursue the Orcs into, well, the Weather Hills. However, it seems that there is foul sorcery afoot! There is an objective card in play that collects tokens when enemies are defeated and, when flipped over, acts as something of a timer for the quest.

We pursue the Orcs into the old border fort of Amon Forn, where we discover the remnants of some depraved ritual having been carried out. Rescuing at least some of the prisoners from Bree, we take them to Fornost and have a chat with Aragorn, no less! But then – the sun goes down, and all hell breaks loose when Thaurdir, the spokesman for the prisoners, turns out to have been an undead wight!!

Deadman’s Dike tasks us with defeating the undead hordes roused by Thaurdir, though it is very much a ‘just survive’ type of quest. Thaurdir cannot be defeated, but if he doesn’t have damage on him equal to his hit points when the final progress token is placed on the quest, we haven’t yet won!

The story ends as Thaurdir escapes with Iârion captive, and we swear to his younger brother Amarthiúl that we will help to rescue him.

It was a bit odd for me to be playing a deck that included Amarthiúl from the start, although his hero card wasn’t released until the penultimate pack in the cycle! I’ve been playing two-handed solo, which is a completely new experience for me, and was actually a whole lot of fun – not least because I was finally able to experience both the Ranged and Sentinel keywords, so that was good! Whether it was helped by the fact I’ve been playing Arkham Horror in this manner for a while now, I found this way of playing really quite straightforward, and didn’t really get that confused by everything that was going on. The one concession I made, though, was to not pass the first player token.

The scenarios were really good, I have to say. I played the first one years ago, but don’t remember doing too well. However, aside from a miserable failure with the first Harad quest back in 2018, this box marks the first time in a long time that I have played “new” quests in this game! So that was pretty exciting to realise! There is a lot of theme in the scenarios, I think, and they don’t seem entirely impossible when playing with two decks, so that is nice! I was playing Standard mode, and still managed to make it through each one, at any rate – though I have read online that this was the first cycle that really tried to address the issue of scaling the game for 1-4 players, rather than assuming an optimum two.

At any rate, this was definitely an enjoyable experience for me, and I think it’s gone a long way to rekindling my love for the game, after the sound thrashing of the Ring-Maker cycle before it putting me off for years! As far as the Angmar Awakened cycle itself goes, I was a play-tester for that, so have played each one back in the day – albeit with cut-out bits of paper with text and no art! Not that I remember a great deal about it (it was 5 or 6 years ago, now), but I’m looking forward to going through the cycle in pursuit of Iârion, so stay tuned for more updates!

Christmas Eve catch-up!

Hey everybody,

The festive season is well and truly upon us, although it’s a stranger one this year because of all the restrictions that are in place. I’ve got five days off work now, so I’m hoping for a bit of a break from things – mainly because there’s so little that we can do!

Of course, being a huge nerd, I feel almost like I’ve been preparing for lockdown my entire life! I’ve got an almost 15 month old baby to keep me occupied during the day, of course, and during naps and the evenings, I’ve got plenty of hobby-backlog to work through!

In an effort to get more models finished before January, today I put the finishing touches to my Necron Overlord from the Indomitus box. It’s a very nice model, even though all the Necrons from that set have got sculpted damage on them, which I’m not a fan of, but I think I’m slowly getting over that now!

I’ve been working most recently on my Delaque gangers, who are finally coming close to being finished! I’m very excited for that of course, though I do think that I’ve taken my time with them, when you think it’s been around 2 years since I first started to build them! I think they’re looking really great, anyway, and as I’m planning another game of Necromunda against myself in the near future, it’ll be nice to have that much more painted up!

Speaking of games, I’ve started to play The Lost Realm for Lord of the Rings, as well, playing the first scenario, Intruders in Chetwood, earlier this week. That was a great game, albeit really quite involved! I’m sure that I played a couple of things incorrectly, as there were a great deal of moving parts to that quest, but I really enjoyed myself – while it definitely provided a challenge, it never felt completely impossible, which was nice to see. So often in the past with this game I’ll have lost due to location lock, where the threat in the staging area is just too high for me to cope with. The encounter deck seemed to be a decent blend of cards, though, which I think is key here. Too many enemies or locations can lead to the game just beating you down hard. I was also playing with Shadow effects, as I feel I’ve been missing out on this aspect for my playing career so far! It probably helped me more than I realised, having that ability to cycle through the encounter deck and effectively discard some locations and enemies without having to deal with them, so I definitely appreciated that!

I think my decks need looking at fairly urgently, though – a lot of the time I felt as though I had too much of a mix of questers, and fighters, meaning that I probably wasn’t dealing with enemies effectively. Of course, I’m still a bit of a novice when it comes to this aspect of play, but I do feel like the decks need to have their balance addressed, so that they fall down either as ‘the questing deck’ or ‘the fighting deck’. That’s not to say that they will fulfil that role exclusively, but just have a greater emphasis, rather than trying to do both equally.

I can probably make better use of Sentinel cards, also!

Hopefully I’ll be able to get more games played over the next few days – I’m hoping to get some Arkham Horror played, as well as more Lord of the Rings!

Hope you all have a wonderful festive weekend, whatever you end up doing!

Happy Solstice

Hey everybody,
Christmas is approaching, for those of you with the inclination, but the recent announcements over lockdowns in the UK has seemingly put a damper on things. This is as much as I’ll talk about with politics, of course, as I try to make this blog more of a haven from such things, but I think I’ll probably be posting a lot over the coming days as I try to take my mind off things – and, hopefully, yours, too!

It was my birthday on Friday, and I had a decent haul of Arkham Horror LCG stuff, which was great! I mean, a couple of those bits I’d kept back from recent purchases, such as the Dexter Drake novella and Guardians of the Abyss. I think the birthday haul is pretty indicative of what is on my radar right now, though – between the card game and Necromunda! I haven’t had a proper chance to do more than flick through House of Artifice, but I’m looking forward to digesting that over the coming days! I do want to get another game of Necromunda in at some point, even if it is by myself, because I’m really hooked right now!

I have started to play Lord of the Rings again, though, thinking that I’d start off with Passage Through Mirkwood, the introductory scenario. And it absolutely brutalised me! I had a very bad series of draws from the encounter deck, and playing two-handed was obviously increasing the cards seen over the course of the game, but jeez!

There are a couple of things that I want to mention here, of course. First of all, playing two-handed is actually a real joy. I had the odd moment of “where am I up to?” of course, but those tended to be in the late game where a lot was going on, already. I think perhaps playing two investigators in Arkham Horror has prepared me well for this one, and I think in part that, in comparison, Lord of the Rings is definitely a much simpler game. It surprised me because there is a much more linear plan for the game: you do the same thing round after round, and the variety of it all comes from the different cards being revealed from the encounter deck. Having played a lot of Arkham Horror lately, which has got that element of a board game from having investigators moving around different locations, and the RPG feel of leveling-up cards etc, it gives for a much more complex game. While there are those elements in common, such as effectively playing against the encounter deck and such, it really surprised me that I had that feeling!

Of course, the decks that I was playing were not really built for this way of playing – each one was effectively a solo deck, so they could have dealt with the majority of the game by themselves. As such, I think I could tweak the decks back to dual-sphere and have each one cover the other better.

Interestingly, I went back to basics on this one as well, and read through the instruction manual, as well as watching the tutorial stuff again, and tried to get it right. Back when I first started playing this game, in 2011, I had incorporated a couple of house rules I suppose, to make it more manageable for actual solo play, and I just kept playing it that way. The ‘Basic Game’ as explained in the rulebook does suggest not revealing shadow cards while you get into it, and I’ve played that way pretty much ever since! I was also playing the game whereby if I had optionally engaged an enemy, I would attack it first rather than allowing for all enemies to attack me first, regardless of who engaged who. In my mind, it made sense that I would be able to do this, because otherwise it’s the equivalent of going up to someone for a fight, and letting them hit you first? Of course, there are player cards that allow you to dodge attacks and the like, but it always struck me as really odd that I couldn’t natively attack first when it was my choice to engage with that enemy!

Anyhow, playing the game correct, I thought, would be a lot of work, but as it happened the first game was over in 5 rounds, as I was just unable to overcome the threats in the staging area, due to bad draws from both the encounter and player decks! Any allies that I had were dying to enemy attacks as I threw them under the bus to just try to deal damage to the enemies engaged with me, but as time went on, I had to throw my heroes at them as defenders, meaning I was in a holding pattern of doom until round 5, when four of my six heroes were killed off. It was shocking!

I did later that same day play again, after briefly considering trying out the official Easy Mode of removing some of the encounter cards, but in the end went for a straightforward shuffle-up-and-reset, and I managed to prevail. The game was a lot longer than I’d expected, though I think that was in part because of the two-handed thing, but also simply because I was trying to defeat Ungoliant’s Spawn, which was the fourth card from the bottom of the deck. Still playing without shadow cards, I wasn’t drawing as many encounter cards as perhaps I could have been!

It’s interesting though, to me, that playing without shadow cards can be such a dual-edged sword; on the one hand, you’re potentially buffing enemies when they can already be a bit unwieldy, but almost in return you get to cycle through the encounter deck quicker, and can potentially avoid having so many locations or so many enemies coming into play. I suppose this is something to think about when we’re talking about implementing house rules or whatever – the game has been tested to play in a certain way, and is as balanced as possible based on its own rules. Adding to these, or changing things, can tip that balance and sometimes lead to a less-than-optimum experience. Certainly something I need to bear in mind when I’m complaining about “how tough is this game?!”

Lord of the Rings LCG

I’m still going to be playing through one of these cycles over the Christmas period – at least one, maybe more! – so look forward to hearing more of my musings as I properly get back into what I have always been calling my favourite game!

I picked up the latest White Dwarf this morning and, as I have the day off (yay!) I had a fairly leisurely breakfast while flicking through its pages. There’s a lot of Age of Sigmar stuff in there, which I kinda glossed over because I’m not big into Spiderfang Grots, but I was reading Robin Cruddace’s column on the new 40k rules, and it was quite interesting to see why they changed some of the rules from 8th to 9th edition.

I’ve talked briefly about this recently, but in some ways I think 9th edition coming out in the middle of a global pandemic, when there are so many restrictions in place that the GW stores themselves can’t even run demos of the game or have people in there for any longer than absolutely necessary, does seem to be a bit of a swing and a miss. Any sort of excitement around the new edition has been, for me, tempered by the fact that I couldn’t immediately play it, and the few games that I have managed to play since it arrived were a weird sort of hodge-podge of rules, in part because I was playing an 8th edition codex in a new game. Granted, it wasn’t massively different, though for something like Necrons, trying to play with the army when Reanimation Protocols had changed, but we didn’t have the rest of the rules yet, was such a weird experience. Now, I know plenty of other folks will have been through the pain barrier between editions where they’re using a book from an edition or two ago, but it’s difficult to get my head around!

It’s curious, although perhaps not totally unexpected, to see how I’ve almost gone off 40k in recent weeks. I think the lack of any outlet to play has a lot to do with this, as I’ve got no real motivation to paint anything up while there’s no end in sight to these lockdowns! I’ve moved into solo-able games so much that 40k has almost been left behind, but I do think it’s about time I used some of the down-time to get some projects finished, so that I can play with fully painted models when this is all over! I’m sure there’ll be more on this to come in the next couple of weeks – if only from the now-inevitable Hobby Resolutions blog! Now is not the time for a retrospective on that one, of course, but it’s definitely been a mixed bag in 2020, with some successes as well as some that have fallen by the wayside. Stay tuned for that blog, coming up sometime next week, no doubt!

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!

What’s New?!

Hey everybody!
Well, it feels like a long time since I’ve had the time for some rambling here on the old blog, but there seems to be so much going on right now, even considering the ongoing global pandemic, that I feel I just have to try and catch up with it all!

Of course, it was the Warhammer Preview again today, and we’ve seen a bunch new boxed games coming from the vaults of Nottingham, such as the new Blood Bowl, and the next season of Warhammer Underworlds:

Forget about the Lumineth – we’re getting Slaanesh cultists, even a Slaangor!

Look at these guys! They look amazing, so perfect and stuff. Exactly what I would want to see from Slaaneshi cultist models. Have we got all the flavours of Chaos cultists now? I really hope that this signifies the release of actual Slaanesh mortal cultist models – for years, all that we’ve had are the Hellstriders, we definitely need more. With these, and the upcoming boxset with Daughters of Khaine, it seems like Slaanesh is firmly back in the frame!

I still haven’t even tried Warhammer Underworlds, but I won’t let that stop me grabbing this for the Slaaneshi chaps!

So, I wasn’t expecting this. In truth, I don’t know what to make of it, either. Warcry is fast becoming Age of Sigmar: Skirmish, and it feels a bit wrong. I mean, one of the best things about the game is how much it is focused on the Chaos warbands in the Varanspire, vying for the attention of Archaon. Hm. At any rate, Warcry is getting battletomes, which seems to be an effort to combine what happened with the Tome of Champions and peppering in stuff like the Monsters and Mercenaries book, and the White Dwarf articles. Interesting.

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Is your Kill Team ready to enter the Pariah Nexus?

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And what’s more, there’s this! It seems there’s been a lot of talk about what is in store for Kill Team with the new edition of 40k out in the wild. Well, it hasn’t been forgotten, at least! But while we’re seemingly getting Marines vs Necrons, I’m hoping that we’re going to get something similar to the Rogue Trader box of yesteryear, with the Inquisition getting some amazing new plastics! Well, hope springs eternal…

What else?

The last adventure pack for Lord of the Rings LCG has been released, and I’m a bit sad by that fact! I mean, let’s talk about this for a moment; I haven’t played it for quite some time, and I certainly haven’t played some of the later cycles, so I certainly have a lot still to get through, regardless of the fact that it’s finished! I think the latest pack that I’ve played up to is the Haradrim cycle, although it’s all very patchy following the Ringmaker cycle… I’ve got plenty more years of this game left to me, anyway!

I’m really feeling in the mood to get into the Arkham Horror LCG again though, as it’s been well over twelve months since I had the run through the Dunwich Legacy cycle, and Innsmouth is of course a classic location for the mythos. I really need to get to grips with this game, as it’s such a great way to get my Lovecraft fix!

However, for the time being, I’ve been thinking about trying to actually accomplish something as we’re heading into Lockdown number two, and I’ve been thinking about finally getting some of the Ossiarch Bonereapers models that I was so excited about last year. I mean, sure, I’ve got plenty to be getting on with, but I thought it might be nice to get a bit of a special project going on – and it’ll give me something to focus my Arkhan the Black around! So stay tuned for that!

A catch-up!

Hey everybody!
It feels like it’s been a while, doesn’t it? After celebrating my blog’s sixth birthday, it seems like other things have come into play, and I’ve not had a great deal of time for much else… well, let’s see, shall we?

To start with – check it out! I’m calling these chaps done for now – last weekend, there was a painting competition at my local Games Workshop (that is, a competition that was held via facebook, given the current climate). The brief was to paint an infantry unit at minimum squad size, and while there are perhaps a couple of details I could improve upon, I still like the fact that I’ve managed to get these done! The start of my Blood Angels – so let’s see what comes next, eh?

In the meantime, I’ve decided to resurrect this old project, and have been putting some details on to the chap in the middle there with the plasma gun. They’re real nice models, as you can see, and while the trim there is quite fiddly, it’s nevertheless really gratifying when these things start to come together like this! Of course, it’s going to make it difficult to keep going with the entire platoon, for sure, but it’ll be worth it!

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#nowReading #Warhammer40k

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This week, I’ve started to read The Emperor’s Legion, the first book in the Watchers of the Throne series by Chris Wraight. I’m only about a third of the way through it, but already it’s gotten me really hooked! I’ve felt a little let-down with some of the 40k novels that I’ve read lately, so it’s really nice to finally be enjoying one again! The book has three point-of-view characters, one of whom is a Silent Sister, and one a Custodian Guard. I’ve been considering building up the Custodians that came with the Battle of Prospero box back in the day, and I’ve also thought about getting on with the Sisters of Silence that have been built since 2016!

Yet again, lovely models!

Let’s move away from plastic now, and instead take a look at some paper products! Arkham Horror LCG is something that I want to keep playing, but haven’t really had a great deal of time for since baby Phoebe came along last year! I did manage to get through the entire Dunwich Legacy campaign before her birth, though, and it’s certainly whetted my appetite, and while I’d been buying all of the cycles without playing, the most recent cycle, the Dream Weavers, was the first one that I didn’t get. I was actually thinking about calling it a day with the Circle Undone, but now that we’re off to Innsmouth, I’m thinking I may need to invest in this one, as well!

The expansion feels like it’s a bit of a return to some aspects from the classic board game, with blessings and curses, and flooding locations!

As the Lord of the Rings LCG appears to draw to a close with the Vengeance of Mordor cycle, the fourth pack of which arrived last week, I think it’s time to get back into this game above all, and get playing more once again. I’m hoping that I can persuade Jemma to join me on this venture, as well – husband and wife against the shadow of Sauron, what could be better?

I’ll be sure to update you all with progress, at any rate!

Magic the Gathering is something that I’ve definitely moved away from in the last year or so. I think War of the Spark was the last set I bought cards from, and haven’t actually played the game for a long time! However, Ikoria has caught my eye because (a) it has massive creatures, and (b) we’re seeing a return of the Tarkir shards! There’s a massive creature in the Mardu colours (red, white and black – my favourite!) that is a “dinosaur cat nightmare” – I mean, what’s not to like?!

The Shards also get Ultimatums, there are new tri-lands with the land types so that you can tutor for them; the Tarkir dual lands are back, and we even get a new Narset planeswalker card! There are a lot of nice cards in this set, and a lot of them would fit nicely into decks that I remember playing and enjoying from back in the day. I need to fight the impulse to get some of these cards!! But they’re so nice…

Oh, Ikoria is testing my resolve not to buy more cardboard crack!


Finally, let me go off-topic now, and fill you in on what I’ve been doing in the couple of weeks since my last blog. I’ve started work on another blog – though don’t worry, I’ll still be sharing my ramblings with you all here! I’ve been learning French once again, after having gone sixteen years since I did my A levels, and thought it’d get me into doing a lot more with it, as I try to put everything that I’m learning into practice! So I’ve started a blog as I try to make sense of it all, which can be found here, if you’re interested in that kind of thing!