Another month has been and gone, Covid restrictions are still here (at least in part) and 2021 is half-way done already!
I spent a noticeable chunk of June ill (several days off work too unwell to work, a separate stint of whole-family-self-isolation are my son coughed his way to a Covid test, and the particularly enjoyable “alive enough to work, but too shattered by evening to continue functioning”) but thanks to a strong start, it was still a solid month for gaming.
Keeping it Marvellous
The Card Game Cooperative got to sit down this month with Michael Boggs, one of the developers of Marvel Champions, and the lead on the most recent Galaxy’s Most Wanted box. Knowing that this was coming up (and having just received the Drax the Destroyer hero pack), there was lots of Champions going on – Drax has a really good fun aggro approach (whoever would have guessed that aggro protection would be a thing?) and feels a lot like what Hulk wanted to be/should have been.
I also kept playing a fair amount of Marvel United. I’ve been doing a fair bit of painting of this, getting the various characters who appear as Heroes and/or Villains in Marvel Champions done as a priority, just so that I can add a bit of extra presence and colour to those games.
I’ve also been trying some of the challenges – sticking to the core set for the moment, but removing the Single and/or Double Wild Icon cards certainly ups the difficulty, especially for heroes who don’t have a particularly balanced icon distribution.
There was even time for a bit of Legendary this month – long-gone are the days when this was the undisputed king of the Marvel titles in our house, and a top 5 game in general (in fact this was the month where Champions overtook it in the all-time-most-sessions stakes, pushing it down to 7th), but it’s still fun, even allowing for the rather cumbersome set-up, and the myriad unforeseen awkward interactions caused by so many expansions being combined together. This month it was a mostly Avengers and X-Men team up against Morgan Le Fay and the anonymous “god-Emperor of Battleworld” – a few unsuccessful attempts, but we got there after a little bit of tweaking the hero line-up.
Return of the Rings
It had been a fair while since I’d gotten Lord of the Rings the Card Game to the table, but that changed in a big way in the final weekend of June. With our son staying at his grandparents for a few nights, we turned our house into Annuminas for a 6-person Epic Multiplayer run-through of Siege of Annuminas, the Fellowship scenario from 2016 that I last played when my son was less than a month old and still lived in hospital. This is definitely a challenging one, and we hadn’t particularly teched for it, leaving some of the stages really struggling for the right kind of answers to the various challenges that the game threw at them. I was in the innermost area, and whilst I had a very strong defender in One-Ring-Inner-Strength-Beregond (deck is shamelessly derived from Electron Jon’s Ain’t No Ash Mountain High Enough build with slight modifications to allow it to function in the wild), 3 attacks of anywhere between 5 and 9 each round tore through our allies faster than we could replace them, seriously undermining our ability to quest. We made it through to Stage 3, thanks to Gandalf Guy killing all 5 of the approaching Hosts, but we’d been late starting, meaning that the Gandalf guy had to go, taking with him our chances of victory.
After a spot of food, our next challenge was the Voyage of the Dreadnaught. Again, this was an “epic multiplayer” game, insofar as one table of 3 and one table of 2 can be considered epic multiplayer, and we played it on Easy mode, somewhat surprised to find that it actually lived up to the name – a relatively comfortable win all-told, thanks to some gigantic dwarf-swarms, and bunch of Hobbits on a pleasure cruise (as far as I could tell from the Dwarf table, they were mostly just doing side-quests and trying to keep their threat in single figures whilst the dwarves did all the real work).
In case Saturday’s pair of epic scenarios weren’t enough, we kept up the theme on Sunday, finally venturing into the ALEP content. Once again, I net-decked, putting together an Ingold Gondor swarm deck for my wife and Beorn’s Last Alliance of Bears and Rohhirrim. Our first attempt was scuppered by a couple of nasty treacheries and shadows, but we beat Ambush at Erelas at the second attempt, with several of the new cards doing sterling work, and then triumphed in Battle for the Beacon a couple of days later. 1 more scenario to go, but I’m feeling a lot more positive about things, having finally taken the first step into this new world of content.
The Right Amount of Bones
Too Many Bones saw a fair amount of table time again, as we made our way through the next couple of Tyrants in the box. We needed a couple of attempts at these, given a slightly higher degree of complexity, and a rules error on my part that had us making life a lot harder for ourselves than it needed to be (just in case anyone else has difficulty reading rulebooks properly, Baddies with the Hardy keyword can only take one damage per turn, not per round!). There’s 2 or 3 still to face in the box, at which point we’ll probably switch up the characters and/or try a harder difficulty setting. (I discovered recently that when teaching the game to a new player, it’s not a great idea to try playing a brand new character that you’ve never looked at before…)
June was a much better month than May for my various gameplay challenges, particularly the Multiplayer Hardcore 10×10.
Xenocide became the 5th title to hit 10 plays, whilst 3 sessions of Marvel Legendary and 5 of Lord of the Rings brought them to 6 and 8 plays respectively. 75/100 sessions so far, and under previous years’ rules it would be 83, including solo sessions – Journeys in Middle Earth continues to lag a little behind, but it’s still Harry Potter Hogwarts Battle that looks like the real mistake in the games chosen here – still only 1 play in 6 months (and I still haven’t gotten around to making the custom insert that it needs to fit both expansions into the box with the main game), this is going to need some serious table time soon, possibly in July when we go on holiday with my Mother-in-Law.
I’m up to more than a dozen new games for 2021 now – Flash Point and Cartographers were only the 3rd and 4th to make 10 plays, but there are another couple on 9 sessions, plus KeyForge on 6 before I have to start scrabbling around for the final 3.
As noted before, I seem to play a lot of different solo games a little bit, rather than having an obvious 10, but Kingdomino & Cartographers became the 4th and 5th games to reach 10 sessions this month, with Aeon’s End just behind on 9 – 80/100 all told.
Stepping back from the challenges specifically, I’m at over 500 games played in the first half of the year, which feels like a lot when you consider that last year’s 827 games played was already a record. That’s largely down to a shift towards more sessions played, but of shorter games – the first 6 months of 2020 actually saw 10 hours more of gaming, and the second half of 2020 was another 12 on top of that – so this doesn’t necessarily represent a surge in gaming. Still, I’ll be interested to see how the pattern continues in the second half of the year.
I spent a decent amount on games in June, the biggest chunk of which was pre-ordering the new Arkham LCG Cycle – however, as this will be replacing monthly Mythos packs, it probably means a reduced spend in the long-term. I sold a few bits and pieces this month as well: TIME Stories, The 7th Continent, and some Carcassonne Expansions. I’m a big Carcassonne fan, and play loads of the solo version, but I’m increasingly of the opinion that it works best as a fairly streamlined, fairly quick game – I’d rather play it twice than make it a slog with too many tiles, so parting with some hard-to-get expansions whose mechanisms I wasn’t over-fond of, for more than I originally paid for them (probably, it’s been years, so I don’t actually have the figures) seemed like a fairly sensible move.
July will see the closing of a few pledge managers, so more costs to come.
As mentioned, July will (Covid regs permitting) see us go on our family holiday for the summer with my in-laws. My mother-in-law is generally a fairly willing gamer, so hopefully get a fair few sessions in there of family-friendly staples: Hogwarts Battle, probably a Pandemic of some description.
I also want to get Paladins of the West Kingdom and Sword & Sorcery back to the table – both are not-actually-that-new-anymore games that I’ve only managed to play once, and I could definitely do with another opportunity to master the rules before trying to introduce them to others.
If the end of June was anything to go by, the biggest limiting factor for July is likely to be my health – I’ve also got my second Covid jab coming up, and the first one knocked me sideways for a day or two, so hopefully I won’t lose too much time overall to my sickbed.
At least the 2nd jab will come before what will (hopefully) be a long-overdue return to face-to-face game cons with UK Games Expo. With no idea whether Insomnia is even going to be running, and a Delta-shaped cloud hanging over the long-awaited return to Essen this autumn, this could well be my only con of the year, and I’m hoping to try and probably return with a few new games – although it’ll be August before I actually make it home again.
I’m not expecting a great deal in terms of new stuff in July. There’s the Return to the Circle Undone for Arkham LCG which arrived a few days ago and has yet to hit the table, plus probably the Venom hero pack for Marvel Champions, but that’s probably about it.