The Changing Mythos

Well, folks, it’s perhaps the big news we’ve all been waiting / hoping for – the release model for Arkham Horror LCG is changing! And it’s quite the dramatic shift, really!

The next expansion has been announced, and we are indeed going to Antarctica – and it even looks like we will indeed be going to the Mountains of Madness. Elder Things, ahoy! I was really coming around to the idea of an Alaska-themed Ithaqua expansion, but this is just as good!

But this isn’t the important bit.

For years now, Living Card Games from FFG have followed the schedule of a big deluxe expansion, and a cycle of six smaller packs, for the co-operative games both products had a mix of player and scenario cards. Now, though, this mix is being divided in two, and the whole scheme is being schmushed together, so that we have an entire cycle’s worth (more or less) of content, split across two boxes.

I guess this means that we’ll see just one expansion each year, though it’s such early days who knows what else we might have in store as time goes on?

The benefits here seem to be that the player cards are dropped in one hit, so you have an almost instant collection to build decks from, to plan decks from, etc. The scenario box also means that individual scenarios can be much longer, and the interplay between them can, presumably, be much tighter. I mean, who’s to say we’ll still get eight individual quests to play? We might only have five, but they’re that much more diverse because they aren’t bound by the constraints of fitting into a mythos pack.

In the middle of all this new stuff, it’s nice to know that we’re still getting new investigators, and they’re still drawing from the classic Arkham stable. Lily Chen is a fan favourite that I know has been on many players’ minds for some time. We have also seen Norman Withers, so we’re not going too far off piste just yet. Daniela Reyes can also be seen on the cover of the box, though I’m not sure who the other two are.

Overall, a very exciting game development, making it feel much less like a living card game of old, and much more like a boxed card game with a big box expansion; which I guess the co-op LCGs were all along. It’s only now that we’re seeing them this way!

Return to Night of the Zealot

Hey everybody,
Today is game day, and it’s time to return to the one that started it all – it’s time to Return to Night of the Zealot. Published back in 2018, the box is a bit like the principle of the Nightmare decks for Lord of the Rings LCG, adding more depth and complexity to the game rather than simply making things more difficult. As well as the new cards to swap into the existing encounters, we get new player cards – upgrades to several of the staples from the core set, which is very nice.

Return to Night of the Zealot

The main story though is all about the changes to the scenarios that this box brings. The core set scenarios are, almost by definition, fairly basic, as they are designed to take us through the learning process for the game. We don’t get anything like as complicated as some of those in Path to Carcosa or The Circle Undone, because the Night of the Zealot campaign is designed to teach us how the game works. Return to Night of the Zealot therefore has the great opportunity to actually make something out of the box.

Return to Night of the Zealot

Return to The Gathering is probably the most-changed in this regard. This is the tutorial scenario, of course, and it is probably the most-played scenario out there, seeing as how it’s the starting point for us all! Things are subtly different, however, as we start off on a different path out of the study and find ourselves in a whole different house, it seems! There’s a definite change to the way the game plays, this time around – it feels different enough that I have to say it really stands out for me as a cracking way to implement this type of expansion.

Return to Night of the Zealot

The familiar story beats are all there, of course – the Ghoul Priest, the rats, all the rest of it. The only changes here for me are that I didn’t seem to end up getting the assistance of Lita Chandler, and for what I think was the first time in the many games with this scenario, I decided not to burn the house down!

Return to Night of the Zealot

Return to The Midnight Masks has much more subtle differences, with some alternate locations as well as alternative cultists for us to interrogate. There is also a whole different cultist deck to shuffle into the encounter deck. These new cultists are part of the Devourer’s Cult, which not only have doom added to them when they enter play, but can also steal clues to slow us down. Again, it’s not so much about making things difficult, but rather adding a new depth to the scenario.

Return to Night of the Zealot

Something that I particularly like about the expansion is the addition of achievements to tick off, as we attempt to play the scenarios and accomplish set goals. It’s a very simplistic way to add replayability to the game, for sure, but even so, it’s interesting as we attempt to explore the entire city of Arkham in this one, or interrogate all six cultists. Not entirely sure how that last could possibly happen, without some serious attempts to remove doom and stop the implacable advance, but anyway!

Return to Night of the Zealot

The Devourer Below is probably the closest to a “regular” scenario of the three from the core set, and the Return to The Devourer Below is perhaps the least-changed of the trio. We have a card that increases the health of Umôrdhoth (just what it needed!) and we have some different Ghouls, but that’s really where the additions end. It still plays quite difficult, and I am still left gobsmacked by how many close calls I end up with during it! Having just managed to collect enough clues to advance the final Act, doom picks up and the Agenda advances to 3b, where the Great Old One wakes up and we need to kill it. With no Lita Chandler to throw into the gaping maw of the beast, I was left to actually fight the thing, which was hardly easy! Agnes ended up dying, and with the last shreds of her sanity fraying, Trish used a Backstab to do the final points of damage.

Return to Night of the Zealot

What a victory!

This is a great design for an expansion, and one that I really enjoyed finally getting to play with after having had it all these years! For almost three years, I’ve had this thing principally for the fact that it’s a storage box, with some nice player cards that are useful across the board of course.

The biggest thing is naturally the new scenario cards that change things up. A couple of encounter sets are completely swapped out, otherwise each scenario has just a few tweaks with maybe two encounter cards added into the deck. And yet, these scenarios play out much more interestingly, for the most part.

I think a lot of people are down on this expansion in particular because the price point is the same as each subsequent Return To box, and yet the content is much lighter because there are only three scenarios involved, and not a full eight. If nothing else, the additional space in this box is useful for storing the tokens and some standalone scenarios. I definitely am a fan, at any rate!

The Circle Undone – looking for doom!

Hey everybody,
I’ve faced the doom of the world, and to some extent, I’ve survived! Let’s take a look into the final scenarios of The Circle Undone campaign.

Now, last time I sided with the Lodge, and I “won” when Carl Sandford managed to bind the spirit of Keziah Mason into his little black book. Oh dear! The campaign was over for me, and the Silver Twilight would begin their true work. Oh dear, oh dear! So I shuffled up and replayed the scenario and decided to side with the witches, whereupon the revenant spirit of Keziah Mason possessed Anette Mason, and turned her evil. Oh dear! At any rate, Valentino is alive, but the remaining three characters from the prologue are now dead – this campaign is going really well, wouldn’t you say?!

 

So I am now In the Clutches of Chaos. Scenario seven brings us back full circle (there’s a pun there, somewhere) to the fortune-teller Anna Kaslow, and the streets of Arkham. The clouds above are not natural. Phantasmal shapes shift and churn within the mist above. The scenario is really pregnant with foreboding, and then it begins. The set-up here is so familiar to me as a fan of Arkham Horror the board game, as we have many of the locations from the original board – but it gets better! The unique thing with this scenario is the breaches and incursions special rule – breaches (represented by resource tokens) are opening across the city, and if a fourth token would ever be placed on a location, instead an incursion takes place, and a doom token is placed on it instead.

Doom isn’t added to the agenda as normal, but instead we have (investigators) +1 breach tokens placed in random locations. In addition, almost all locations have no clue tokens added to them when they’re revealed – instead, by clearing breaches we have the opportunity to add clues to a random location. It’s all very random, and it feels incredibly like the board game, where we’re trying to close gates before we reach the gate limit. It was really nice!

 

The scenario concludes when the possessed Anette Mason is defeated – which I managed to do quite cinematically, with Joe Diamond softening her up before Diana Stanley finished her off with the Twilight dagger. Wonderful! In the fourth Interlude of the cycle, we come to realise that everything we’ve been doing has almost been a distraction from the massive breach that has been in the sky this entire time, engulfing the stars. Oh dear, oh dear!

At this point, we’re pretty much resigned to our fate, and when a group of nightgaunts come down from the sky, we mount up and fly into the void, in a desperate gambit to try and push back the chaos!

 

Before the Black Throne is almost a spoiler in itself, isn’t it – clearly we’re going to go up against Azathoth in some description. In every other Lovecraft game we’ve got, Azathoth is always the end – it wakes up and destroys the world. How would that be implemented in the card game?

As is now the pattern for this game, the cycle ends with a trip into an Other World – this time, we’re into the Cosmos, the Void. The implementation is quite nice, though, using the top cards from the investigator decks to provide “empty space” that we have to cross, replacing them with Cosmos cards where possible. It’s not a straightforward trip from A to B, however, and we don’t have a map – we need to try to find the way, which isn’t as straightforward as all that. These Cosmos cards can only be placed in specific locations relative to where we currently are – it sounds very regimented, but it’s actually a really great way to implement that flailing in the unknown.

 

Of course, there are anchor points in the void, and we’re trying to get from one to another at each turn of the Act deck. It’s also really nice how all of the investigators need to make it to the same point before the Act can advance, or else they will be killed.

Azathoth is present right from the beginning, and cannot be influenced by player cards in any way. We cannot fight him, but we can be attacked, by it, and many treachery cards can cause that. It looms over the whole scenario, and it feels almost insurmountable right from the start as a result.

Something that I found really interesting about the finale here is that it isn’t over when the Agenda runs out. I was all for making a suicidal attempt, and both of my investigators were only 1 or 2 points of damage away from death anyway, but no! Things carry on, and any doom that would be placed on the Agenda is instead placed on Azathoth (who has been collecting doom throughout, I hasten to add!)

To finally advance to victory, we need to find the Black Throne, and remove all of the clue tokens on there. Its shroud value is potentially huge, as it is linked to how much doom Azathoth has collected, but in no small part thanks to the Seeker shenanigans of Joe Diamond, I was able to actually clear all of the clues and – with a lot of luck – win!

I mean, I call it victory – Joe is now insane, and has joined the immortal Pipers of Azathoth forever. But, for now, Azathoth slumbers…

 


What an absolutely fantastic cycle The Circle Undone is!

From the almost inauspicious beginnings when we’re at the Meiger Estate and we’re not sure what’s going on, through the strange investigations into both the witch coven of Anette Mason and the Silver Twilight Lodge themselves, this cycle has got so many twists and turns, it feels like an absolute labyrinth. The designers stated that they crafted a tale that pitted the all-male Lodge against the all-female coven, resulting along the way with the theme of good vs evil (though which side is which is, of course, a matter of perspective). Given the nature of this conflict, the choice of Azathoth being the Ancient One at the end was almost inevitable, as that particular god has no motive beyond wholesale destruction.

It all works together really quite well, but that is not to say that the cycle is without its flaws. I’ve said previously that the storyline feels very much like it is pulling us along, and regardless of what happens during each game, there is a sense, at times, that there is stuff in-between games that will place us on the right track, regardless. This wasn’t quite so obvious in either Dunwich or, particularly, Carcosa, and it did distract me at times, I can’t deny.

But that’s not to say that The Circle Undone is a bad campaign. Quite the opposite, in fact. The atmosphere of gothic horror is palpable, and the theme really drips off in great clots. I love that this cycle explores the witchcraft side of Lovecraft’s writings, albeit tying in with the cosmic horror represented by the blind idiot god at the end. There can sometimes be a weird feeling when you manage to shoot a Great Old One, but here we have no chance to actually fight Azathoth, and that’s something I really love! Instead, we’ve just got to try and survive so that the story can end a different way.

I also adored the way we get to explore Arkham as a town here. Sure, we’ve had glimpses in the earlier cycles, when we’ve been at the Historical Society or the Miskatonic Museum, but this cycle really strives to bring us back to the town as a place that, if we’ve played the board game, we’ll be intimately familiar with. We get to run around the different locations much like we do in the board game, and it feels absolutely delightful! I really haven’t had so much joy from the game as when I’m getting to play with stuff like this, so I heartily commend the designers for that.

Overall, it’s not without its flaws, but I think the final impression of The Circle Undone as a campaign is that it is one of the best out there. I am definitely playing this one again at some point, and I imagine the games will feel quite different in choosing different paths from the start.

The Circle Undone – looking for cultists

Hey everybody,

There’s no stopping me now, as I plunge ahead with my Circle Undone campaign! I’ve said this so often during my blogs so far, but I’ve really enjoyed myself with this cycle. The witch/cultist theme is utterly incredible, and I think being set firmly in Arkham has been a real boost, too. Don’t get me wrong, I have enjoyed my jaunts into Dunwich and across the Atlantic, but here we’ve got almost the sense of exploring the old board game, and I love it!!

As always with these blogs, spoilers for the scenario will follow!

For the Greater Good sees us rummaging around the Silver Twilight Lodge in search of answers to what is going on. As enemies of the Lodge, my investigators were creeping around trying to avoid alerting anyone to their presence, and it does somehow feel like that’s exactly what we’re doing when playing this one! I’m sure I was trying to breathe quietly, just in case!

As we’ve seen in a number of scenarios now, this one has something of an unfolding map as we investigate further into the Lodge, moving through rooms in our search for clues. It’s not just clues that we’re after though – this scenario uses chaos tokens to represent “keys”, which we’re trying to locate for an unspecified purpose. I assumed it would be something to open the door to the Inner Sanctum but, while some locations are indeed barred to you unless you have a specific key, their purpose is instead linked to a puzzle box that is in the possession of Nathan Wick, a senior member of the Lodge.

The objective here is to get the box and the keys, but the way that the scenario unfolds, all of this feels like it happens quite beautifully and natural. An interesting point to this, the box had no other function in this scenario other than being the McGuffin, which I thought was an interesting point!

The encounter cards are quite an interesting mix, with a few that hate on the investigators for collecting keys (poor Joe was almost driven insane by being the one collecting all four), but otherwise it wasn’t what I’d call a particularly difficult scenario to handle. That said, I’d finally taken the time prior to playing to tune up my decks with some of the 15 experience points I’d earned so far, so maybe that helped!

Things are getting real in the fourth pack, Union and Disillusion, as we follow the Lodge to the Unvisited Isle in an attempt to either help or hinder the ritual. From the start, the atmosphere is laden with dread, as the set-up tells us to decide if we’re with or against the Order. Sheesh!

The Unvisited Isle is yet another classic location of course – and as with each time such a location turns up, we get to really run around and explore things, learning more about the place than we ever did from the board game!

So we’re running around the island, either lighting braziers (if we’re with the Order) or extinguishing them (if we’re with the witches), and there are several callbacks along the way to earlier scenarios, such as being forced to split up at one point. The scenario pack encounter set even includes several cards from the whippoorwill encounter set, calling back Dunwich! The brazier mechanic is quite interesting, involving a combined skill test, for instance you might need to test strength and agility (10) to complete it. Compound skill tests are fairly exciting, if I’m honest, and I’m surprised it has taken this long for the designers to implement them!

Everything kicks off when the Spectral Watcher shows up and starts to make his menacing way towards us. A new location, the Geist Trap, is put into play, and the objective is to defeat the Watcher while there – are you getting Ghostbusters vibes? Good. In a lucky twist, I’d managed to get myself fairly tooled-up so that everything was in place: a brazier must be lit, at a combined skill check of 20, so I’d drawn enough cards that I could comfortably over-commit and make sure the only thing I needed to do was to defeat the blighter!

The ending is a bit weird on this one, if I’m perfectly honest. Having decided to throw in my lot with the Order, I made some story choices along the way that have led to me seemingly dooming the world! The final resolution reads: The true work of the Silver Twilight Lodge has now begun. The Silver Twilight Lodge wins the campaign.

What?! There are still two packs left in the cycle! Well, it seems that I may have miscalculated…

I’m probably going to re-play this one and try siding with the witches to see how that works out for me.

The Circle Undone – looking for witches

Hey everybody,

It’s time to continue my journey into witchcraft and the spooky goings-on around Arkham, as I make a proper start on The Circle Undone campaign, just when FFG have announced the Return To box will be coming out this summer! Very exciting stuff there – including a full Tarot deck to add even more craziness. I’m very much looking forward to having that when it is released, I must say. For now, though, let’s start on The Secret Name

Okay, so things are getting really interesting here! The setup for this scenario is something else, and covers two full pages of text as the possibilities are laid before you. I said last time that this campaign felt a little like it was trying to lead us more by the nose, and that feels true here still, although not necessarily in a bad way. It definitely feels like there is a lot of story that the designers are trying to get through, and maybe splitting it up into eight separate scenarios was never going to be enough…

From the mouth of no less a person than Carl Sandford, head of the Order of the Silver Twilight, we learn of the presence of a coven of witches in Arkham, and the Order is looking into the strange happenings going on in the town. The event at Josef Meiger’s estate was intended to study the strange mist going round, and see if there is anything they can learn from it. Pursuit of this knowledge leads us to Keziah Mason at the Witch House, which of course long-term Arkham fans will know only too well! 

The story of this pack is truly wonderful, even with all of its nuts and bolts sometimes getting in the way. We start off with the prosaic halls of the Witch House, and when able to we burst through Walter Gilman’s Room into a realm of horror and witchcraft that, I don’t mind telling you, was just truly fantastic! I mean, we’ve had story elements like this before, when exploring Mont St Michel during the Carcosa storyline, but somehow here it’s done much better. The locations spin out into other worlds, or other times, and it all feels like some fantastical type of fever-dream, very fitting for what is precisely going on here.

The pack is perhaps infamous for the delightful little critter Brown Jenkin, a super-rat who just keeps coming back time and again! Keziah’s familiar, he is nothing to the horrors of Nahab, a sort of super-witch-ghost who can never be killed, merely exhausted… The enemies are quite annoying, for sure, but even that has some really great elements where it all just feels so, I don’t know, real. The scenario culminates in a ritual where we try to banish this unwelcome spirit, returning to the ruined house from the otherworlds. Cracking stuff!

The Wages of Sin

Comparatively speaking, The Wages of Sin is a much more laid back scenario. We’re off to the graveyard at the dead of night, because of course we are! The locations are double-sided again, with the real world face up to start with, then the spectral world on the reverse. We also have two encounter decks here, a real world deck and a spectral deck, to be drawn from depending on which type of location we’re at.

To start with, we’re just gathering clues to track down the coven, and everything proceeds much as normal. Then the agenda advances, and all hell breaks loose when a number of Heretic cards are put into play. The objective is to banish these guys, but there are so many caveats on them that doing so can prove to be tricky, to say the least! Added in here, we have what has already become my most-hated encounter set in the game so far, The Spectral Watcher.

Each of the Heretics is a story card, so there is some text on the reverse, much as we have seen with cards in the Carcosa cycle. Each has different ways of banishing it, detailed on the back of the card – when the Heretic is defeated, the card is flipped over, and oftentimes you’ll discover what you then need to do to actually banish that Heretic forever, before then having to flip it back to deal with again! However, the clues that we’ve been gathering over the course of the cycle so far can provide us with Spectral Web asset cards, which function much like the Powder of Ibn-Ghazi in the Dunwich Legacy cycle, giving us that fighting chance to deal with these Heretics.

This is the first time that I have ever Resigned from a scenario out of sheer hopelessness. I did misunderstand the text on one of the Heretics, so I probably didn’t need to, but I definitely felt like this game beat me down on this one! Pretty much every Arkham Horror LCG scenario is tough, but this one – considering, like I said at the beginning, it’s a more laid-back scenario than The Secret Name – really is difficult to deal with, all the same! Luckily, the fail-forward mechanic employed by the game means that it never really matters whether you complete the scenario properly, or if you win or lose. Something will happen to put you back on the right path for the next pack, even if you resign at the earliest opportunity and made no attempt to fulfil the objective. 

I’ve said it before, and I’ll no doubt keep saying it, but I really love the feel of this cycle! Covens of witches with veiled agendas, snooping around graveyards and dealing with the tormented spirits of long-dead heretics, it’s all just fantastic! Lovecraft was of course all about the spooky and the weird, not necessarily all cosmic horror, and I think it’s really nice to get this aspect of his work discovered in the game. Silver Twilight has always been a bit hit with me, going back to the original Call of Cthulhu days, as well. So that’s a big plus for me! 

All in all, I’m really enjoying myself, although I haven’t spent a single point of experience yet, so I need to get moving forward with updating my decks before moving on to the next scenario.

Mythos delvings

It’s been good to get back to the mythos! It’s been a couple of years since my last blog post that chronicled my Lovecraft reading by the light of the Christmas tree, and with this season’s glorious return, I’ve got quite a few good ones lined up!

To start with, I re-read The Shadow Over Innsmouth. This is the one that kinda started it all for me, reading weird fiction over the festive season. It also somewhat coincides with my recently discovered surge in interest for the Arkham Horror LCG, which of course is currently in an Innsmouth cycle. The story concerns an unnamed narrator as he is doing a spot of sightseeing and genealogical research along the New England coastline, and decides to visit the coastal town of Innsmouth, almost against the advice he is given. The atmosphere of the story is really wonderful, and I’d forgotten a lot of what makes this a great story. Sure, some of the foreshadowing is a little heavy-handed at times – the big reveal that the townsfolk are basically communing with the fishes can be guessed from very early on – but the attention to detail in the descriptions of the dilapidated town is very striking. Innsmouth certainly looms large in the mythos, and I feel as though this tale is one of the cornerstones of Lovecraft’s writing, much like The Dunwich Horror and The Call of Cthulhu, and needs to be read by everybody with any sort of interest in this genre.

2020 has been a weird time, of course, so what better time to read some truly weird stuff? This year, I finally made it to another of the juggernauts of weird fiction: The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath! Man, this story is weird. I’ve read that it was never published or revised by HP in his lifetime, so who knows whether he would have made any changes or alterations had he decided to do so. At times, it is quite difficult to follow, as well – something I think he himself was quite concerned about. The premise is fairly simple, if a bit fantastical: Randolph Carter (a recurring character in HP’s writings, although I’m not sure he is fully intended to be) wishes to find the location of a beautiful sunset city that he has visited in his dreams, and so he decides to petition the Great Ones who live in Kadath to allow him to enter the city in his dreams. The whole story is told as Carter is dreaming it, and we go on quite the ride through the Dreamlands! Carter visits the forest of the Zoogs, who direct him to the city of Ulthar, the cats who live there being old friends of his. Finding the clue of a carving on a mountainside, Carter is abducted while trying to travel there, and is taken to the moon by the moon-beasts, servants of Nyarlathotep. The cats rescue him, and he travels to the mountain carving where he recognises the features as similar to the merchants of Celephaïs. However, he is abducted again by the night-gaunts, who take him to the Underworld where he is rescued by the ghouls, including one who was formerly Richard Pickman. The ghouls lead Carter through the city of the Gugs and back to the forest of the Zoogs, who are plotting an attack on Ulthar. Carter warns the cats, who in gratitude help him find Celephaïs, where the trail leads north to Inganok. There, Carter is again abducted and taken to a monastery in the Plateau of Leng, and barely manages to escape from the dreaded High Priest Not To Be Described. In his escape, he rescues the three ghouls who helped him through the city of the Gugs, and after a lengthy battle between the ghouls and the moon-beasts, Carter enlists the support of the ghouls and the night-gaunts in flying to Kadath, where he finds a pharaoh-like being who identifies Carter’s dream-vision as his own native Boston. The being reveals himself as Nyarlathotep, who tricks him into flying not to the sunset city but instead to the court of Azathoth at the centre of the universe – and then Carter remembers this is all a dream and wakes up.

Quite the ride! I don’t normally go into full synopsis mode for these mythos blogs, but I felt that it was almost a requirement here, for the depth of story involved! The Dream-Quest is told in one long narrative of around 100 pages, and like I said at the start, it is weird. I read it in sections over a couple of evenings, which is entirely possible as, while there are no chapter subdivisions, there are plenty of paragraphs which begin “The next day…” and so forth. There are so many allusions to other parts of the wider mythos, and names and locations that loom large for me as a fan of the board and card games based on Lovecraft’s work, that I found it quite exciting to be reading something that has been such an integral part of this world for so long.

It also helped that I found myself playing the Dreamlands expansion for Eldritch Horror around the same time, which is something else that has been put off for far too long now!

The story is quite interesting, to me, as it represents the sort of fantasy stories that were prevalent pre-Tolkien, with a lot of influence from The Arabian Nights. Rather than having fantasy equals orcs and goblins, and that sort of medieval feel to it, instead we have exotic locations and truly fantastical creatures. It’s a recurring theme of many of the stories in the Dream Cycle, and I suppose it interests me because it represents what is actually possible within the wider genre of fantasy. I feel as though I’ve been conditioned, almost, into thinking of fantasy in those realms of medieval Europe, so it is really nice to see beyond that, I must say!

Keeping with the Dream Cycle, I also read Celephaïs, a short tale of a man who pursues his dream of the imagined city of Celephaïs, to the point where his own life wastes away and his body washes up on the shores of Innsmouth. The man’s name is not given, though in dreams he calls himself Kuranes, and is a figure who also features in the Dream-Quest. With being fairly short, it wasn’t as weird as the novella!

Shorter still, What the Moon Brings is based off a dream Lovecraft had, and describes something of a surreal landscape, which looks different and “hideous” compared with the light of day. This theme of the transformation of the familiar into the horrible continues, as the landscape becomes more and more twisted. The ending is quite abrupt, making you wonder if the narrator has died.

The Crawling Chaos was a little disappointing, at first, but I think I’d misled myself with this one! The story is one of HP Lovecraft’s many collaborations, although this one appears to be mostly the work of Lovecraft, based on an outline described to him by Winifred V Jackson. The story is only a short one, and describes something of an out-of-body experience following an accidental overdose of opium on the part of the narrator. It reminded me a little of the scenes in Beetlejuice, where they step out of the house and the sand-snake-creatures are running amok. Considering the title of the story is most often associated with Nyarlathotep, I think I was expecting an appearance, but never mind! For completion’s sake, I also read The Green Meadow, the second collaboration between the two. Based on a dream related by Jackson, the story is said to have been recovered from a curious notebook of some otherworldly material, discovered in a meteorite but written in classical Greek. The narrator floats on a slowly disintegrating island towards a green meadow, discovering the dream city of Stethelos before the text disintegrates into illegibility. Not what I would call my favourite of Lovecraft’s stories, though it does have that dream-like quality that shares something with What the Moon Brings.

To finish, this year I also re-read The Whisperer in Darkness. One of the towering greats of Lovecraft’s work, it leans more towards science fiction than the classic horror, although of course there are a number of elements of suspense as the story grows. It is also significant within the wider mythos for containing a great deal of references to ancient gods and creatures, and the like. It concerns the narrator, Albert Wilmarth, and his investigations into some strange sightings following the Vermont floods of 1927. He begins to correspond with a native of the area, Henry Akeley, who has witnessed the curious and horrible creatures that inhabit the wild hills of Vermont, and chronicles his ongoing battle with them as the creatures become aware of him. About halfway through, the tone of Akeley’s correspondence changes, and he invites Wilmarth to visit him. Naively, Wilmarth agrees and is quite shocked to find Akeley in poor health, though his host is able to whisper of the things he has learnt since he has called a truce with the aliens. Wilmarth is horrified to discover that the aliens plan to take Akeley back with them to their planet of Yuggoth (identified with the newly-discovered Pluto) and invite him to join them, also. In classic Lovecraft style, Wilmarth escapes in terror before the aliens get him, barely managing to keep hold of his sanity. Of course, we never really get definite descriptions of these things, but the story features a catalogue of names such as Hastur, Shub-Niggurath, Yuggoth, the Mi-Go, Hali, Carcosa, etc. There are suggestions that the Mi-Go are the alien, fungoid worshippers of Nyarlathotep, although everything is quite vague and it’s almost impossible to pin anything down for definite. It’s all for texture, with Lovecraft, and it works so well to promote that weirdness that we love him for. There is also a wealth of local colour thanks to Lovecraft’s visit to the state in the late 1920s. It really suffuses the latter part of the story, as Wilmarth travels to Vermont. This tale is rightly one of Lovecraft’s finest, even if Wilmarth is a bit of a gullible one!

Horror in your Dreams!

Hey everyone,
It’s game day here at spalanz.com, and for today’s festive offering, I’m attempting to revive my custom of playing Eldritch Horror! There are still a couple of expansions that haven’t yet made it onto the blog, so today I’m going to investigate The Dreamlands, a big box expansion that first came out back in 2017.

Eldritch Horror: The Dreamlands

As with both of the previous big box expansions, Mountains of Madness and Under the Pyramids, The Dreamlands comes with a new side board for the main game, featuring locations from HP Lovecraft’s Dream-Cycle stories such as Ulthar and Dylath-Leen. Travel between these boards is, however, much easier than previously seen, as an investigator can either spend 1 clue or test Will -1 while performing a Rest action, and immediately move to the Enchanted Wood location. During set-up, three gates are drawn from the gate stack, ensuring each is for a location not on the Dreamlands board – these locations then receive Dream Portals which also link the boards together. It’s all quite thematic, and depending on where the locations of the Dream Portals are, can make things fairly straightforward to travel back and forth.

Eldritch Horror: The Dreamlands

The expansion is very much in the vein of more of the same, as we follow the now-established formula for these things, with two new Ancient Ones, about eight new investigators all from the Arkham Files universe, more cards for the base game locations as well as item decks, and then cards for the new board, and in this case an Expedition-style deck called the Dreamquest deck, which functions in the same way as previous iterations by giving you more complex encounters to follow. There are, of course, Prelude cards that allow you to determine how you’re going to use the new content if you like to structure things that way, and there is a small deck of Adventure cards that work with the Dreamlands board if you aren’t using a Dreamlands Ancient One.

Eldritch Horror: The Dreamlands

For my first game, I went up against Atlach-Nacha, created by Clark Ashton Smith as the spider god who spins a web between Hyperborea and the Dreamlands. I seem to recall always being fairly creeped-out when playing against this Ancient One in Arkham Horror, though that’s likely due to my arachnophobia. Here, Atlach-Nacha feels like a fairly straightforward Ancient One to overcome – it is more than likely down to the Mysteries that I drew, of course, but I didn’t feel like there was a great struggle as I went around the boards. True, only one of the three mysteries that I drew required me to have Research Encounters, so whereas normally I can be a little bit frustrated with the lack of clues spawning and so forth, here it didn’t really come to pass. I was also very lucky with Luke Robinson gaining the friendship of the cat unique asset which grants you five clues, as this happened just when I needed it!

Atlach-Nacha

The second Ancient One included in the box is Hypnos, who I’m fairly sure has been upgraded from simply a Herald (or was he a Guardian?) in Arkham Horror. Hypnos always works with the Dreamlands board, and has some fairly interesting mechanics for advancing his mysteries. He also has three separate decks of special encounters, which is really neat!

However, I feel like neither of these Ancient Ones is particularly nasty.

I don’t mean this to sound in any way disdainful when I say that this expansion gives us more variety without really breaking any of the rules of the base game, because it really isn’t a bad thing. Eldritch Horror has, in many ways, provided nothing but more of the same in each expansion. The Focus mechanic is back from Mountains of Madness, and that is pretty much the only change from the base game. Everything else is self-explanatory once you start playing, and while we get some tweaks on existing concepts (more Conditions that are actually boons, for example), there’s very little to confuse the uninitiated.

The eight investigators included are all familiar faces with new artwork, some of them are quite welcome having been staples from the core set of Arkham Horror, but only now making their appearance here.

There isn’t really a great deal more that can be said, if I’m honest – the expansion provides much of what we’re used to seeing from Eldritch Horror at this point, and continues the trend as we would expect it. The side board is interesting, with some thematic stuff going on to enjoy, and overall any fan of the base game will appreciate this for its strong ties in to the theme of the source material. I don’t think I’d say it is my favourite of the Eldritch Horror expansions, but it does its job well, and that’s all that we can ask!

Eldritch Horror: The Dreamlands

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!

Expanding the Mansion

Inside abandoned hospitals, secret laboratories, and forgotten cellars, scientists are conducting depraved experiments that will drag humanity to the brink of the abyss. Only a small group of investigators can discover the truth and put an end to these mad plots before it’s too late…

Mansions of Madness Forbidden Alchemy


The first expansion for Mansions of Madness, Forbidden Alchemy, delves into the sort of laboratory horror that filters through some of HP Lovecraft’s short stories, as we look at the strange goings-on in the private laboratories of crazed scientists. It’s been three years since I looked at the base game on this blog, and even though a lot has happened in that time, including a second edition of the game and me selling off my own copy of the first edition. But I still want to get round to exploring the expansions here, almost as a retrospective or comparative, looking at how things have been implemented across the variety of Lovecraft games in the stable!

Mansions of Madness Forbidden Alchemy


Forbidden Alchemy is the type of small-box expansion for the game that gives us very much more of the same. We get some new investigators, again some classics from the Arkham Horror stable, and classic monsters like the Byakhee. There is, of course, the over-arching theme of mad scientists and the like, but in the main the expansion is fairly straightforward, if I’m honest. I always find it quite curious when talking about expansions like these – they’re the sort of expansion that I appreciate, because sometimes when I like a game, I just want more of the same. Sometimes an expansion for a game will greatly change the base game, almost to the point where you wonder if you’re playing the same thing, and while that can be nice to change things up a bit, sometimes you just want a new hero to try out, or whatever.

Mansions of Madness Forbidden Alchemy

There are new puzzles in this box, themed of course around Alchemy, although these do change things up from the base game’s puzzles in that you don’t have the same kind of correlation between the investigator’s intellect and what they’re trying to do, but instead it’s all a bit random. Very thematic for the expansion, but I don’t think they’re necessarily better than the earlier puzzles.

The expansion is wonderful, though, for the scenarios it includes, featuring none other than Herbert West and his foul experiments! Crawling hands trying to grab the investigators when they least expect it… nice!

Mansions of Madness Call of the Wild

Call of the Wild was the big box expansion for the game, which featured a slew of new components for the game, and was themed somewhat around the Dunwich Horror. We go outside of the mansion this time around, and have scenarios that actually involve that forsaken hill where the Horror was banished. 

Mansions of Madness Call of the Wild

This expansion literally blows the game wide open, not only simply by virtue of being outside, but a lot of the structure of Mansions of Madness has gone, but in a good way. You’re not forced to follow a specific chain of clues to reach the objective, but rather can gather clues with almost total freedom. This sea-change necessarily means that the stacking of Objectives has also been replaced with a more flexible kind of end game in sight, and it’s really quite something!

There is a scenario that is a sort of whodunnit, where you can question townsfolk and gain them as allies as you try to discover a cult leader; there is a scenario where the investigators are trying to hide ritual pieces that the keeper is trying to discover, in order to enact a pre-chosen ritual. There’s a weird sort of dungeon-crawl type of scenario where you’re trying to escape a misty forest, and you build the map as you go. 

Mansions of Madness Call of the Wild

We also have the Dunwich Horror itself, in a scenario that sees the keeper trying to summon it, and the investigators trying to complete tasks set for them by Zebulon Whateley in order to foil these summoning efforts. 

It’s really everything you’d expect from a big-box expansion, though. The altered gameplay that comes from being outside and not having to complete the clues in strict order, along with a raft of stuff that, some of it being highly themed to the new set, but still can be added in to the base game if you so wish. 

Mansions of Madness is one of the great Ameritrash games where the theme is prioritised over everything else, although of course this game doesn’t just paste a theme onto some random basic game engine. There is so much going on in any game that it can make for a really immersive experience. The expansions are very nice additions, although Forbidden Alchemy did have a lot of trouble when it first came out, requiring the inclusion of a set of cards to replace “broken” components of the game. That did make for a very confusing box opening, I must say!

What I find quite interesting about this game is how it chooses to implement the mythos side of things. Call of the Wild is nothing like Dunwich Horror for Arkham Horror, or The Dunwich Legacy cycle for the LCG. It’s probably closest to the latter, in that both games take aspects from the source material and re-imagine them, but MoM has an extremely tenuous link to the Lovecraft tale, while at least the LCG tells a fairly compelling tale set in the aftermath of the story itself. 

Forbidden Alchemy has no real antecedent in the other mythos games, of course, although it does scratch a very nice itch from the source material. Lovecraft himself was very interested in modern science, and I think if he had had the money, would absolutely have been one of those gentlemen scientists with a private lab in the basement. Quite a few of his stories include some form of science, with tales like Herbert West – Reanimator and Cool Air having almost the main focus of the story being on pushing the limits of scientific discovery. It’s definitely a lot of fun to see that given some attention within FFG’s stable of Lovecraft-themed games, in my view!

Mansions of Madness is now in its second edition, where the keeper has been replaced with an app, allowing for a fully-cooperative game experience. I’ve not really looking all that closely at the second edition, having pretty much downsized my collection when I moved house last year to a core of games that I regularly played, and the Cthulhu-themed games were pretty heavily hit. To all appearances, though, MoM2 is going well, with the most recent expansion, Path of the Serpent, being released twelve months ago. With five expansions that all look to be somewhat along the lines of big box entries, it definitely seems to be doing well for itself!

Dipping into Madness…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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