Monsters of the Mansions

It’s been a fairly dry few weeks here on Fistful of Meeples, as I’ve talked a lot about numbers, lists, statistics, and even storage inserts. Whilst this is the sort of thing that often fills my mind, I’m aware that it may not be the most exciting fare that people have ever read, and I want to keep a balance. For today, let’s take a more colourful look at Mansions of Madness 2nd edition.

mansions-madness-board-game-appMansions of Madness is a game that’s been floating around for a while, in which a “Gatekeeper” marshals various dark and sinister forces against a band of investigators who are exploring a Mansion or other location. This summer’s surprise release saw the game re-booted for a second edition, giving the role of the Gatekeeper to an app, leaving the players with a fully co-operative and/or solo-able way to play through the Mansion.

I love this game- I picked up a review copy that I wrote about for Games Quest, and it’s spent many hours on our dining table since August. It’s thematic, and the layout tiles are beautiful.

It wasn’t without its detractors though. Replayability and the number of scenarios included is a can of worms that I’ll leave for another time, but people were also quick to find fault with the miniatures.

mansions-madness-board-game-standard-monstersA monster in Mansions of Madness 2nd Edition is made up of 3 components, a grey plastic miniature, a massive black base, and a cardboard tile that gets (mostly) swallowed by said base. The pegs for fixing the miniatures into the bases were often the wrong size and, unless you spent some time filing or gluing, they could be relied upon to fall apart with depressing regularity.

Whilst 5 minutes with glue and scissors would have been sufficient to make the game playable, I felt inspired by my ongoing efforts to pimp out Zombicide, and taking an idea from Board Game Geek, decided to give these figures the full treatment.

Ordinary People

cultistsThe Cultist is your basic Lovecraftian monster. Seemingly entirely human, he has turned to dark and sinister ways, and needs to be stopped. The base game of Mansions of Madness 2nd Edition comes with a lot of cultists, offering a fair amount of scope for varying the colour scheme without making them look implausibly jovial in hue.

priestLeading the cultists, is the Priest of Dagon – like most of the monsters in this set, FFG produce a pre-painted version of this character, which provided a useful starting point, but it felt a bit too gaudy to me.

Instead, I opted for a slightly darker tone to meet the overall mood of the game. There’s not really a great deal going on overall with this figure, but I’m generally fairly happy with how it turned out.


riotThe Riot is simply a mob of angry men, and the ordinariness of it all is what I was trying to capture in the painting of these figures. Sometimes the narrative will hint at something more sinister in the blood of these types (or even straight-up tell you that it’s being used to represent an army of zombies). However, for the miniatures, I just wanted something that could pass for a crowd of 1920s men, suddenly roused to anger and violence, terrifying because of their apparent ordinaryness.


deeponehybridStill human-looking to the casual eye, the Deep One Hybrid is born of the sea, and not quite human. I’ve done a few of these, trying to tread the line between the natural and the ridiculous: I think that overall the slightly unnatural flesh tones and the red eyes are more effective, but the more “human” one is still perfectly serviceable.


Whilst the world of Lovecraft is full of ordinary folk who have meddled in things that should not have concerned them, it also contains plenty that it clearly monstrous, and the game reflects that too.

ghostsThe Ghost was probably the hardest figure to paint, as the ideal effect would be translucence, which obviously cannot be painted on to a piece of solid grey plastic. For both attempts at this, I went for pale, muted colours – everything in shades of grey for the first, and then a whiter palette for the second, which I tinged with light blue, before adding the chains in a heavy, unmistakably corporeal dark metallic shade.

childofdagonThe Child of Dagon is a strange monster. Typically in scenarios, you seem to encounter a normal looking human who is suddenly and dramatically transformed. This is another where FFG’s pre-painted miniature is a very bright colour, almost garish. I wanted something a bit less over-the-top, whilst still retaining the definitely-not-human aspect. I think what I’ve ended up with works well.

deeponesThe Deep One is a creature of the sea, and the first of the Monsters which doesn’t appear to have been human at any point in time. For this one, I followed the colour-scheme of the pre-painted miniature for sale on the website fairly closely, including the pink tinges around the hands/feet and spine – although, I’ve generally gone for a slightly more muted tone than the official ones. As there were 4 of these, I was able to bring in a bit of variety, I went for a greenish rather than blue base for this one, and a greenish tint for another. Overall, it still seems to work fairly well.

horrorThe Hunting Horror was one of the trickiest models to paint, the pattern – lots and lots of little squares – on the skin had a very pronounced cast line on it in the first one, and by the time I’d trimmed with the scalpel, filed, and re-filled gaps, some of the detail was lost. For the first one, I kept with the dark, blueish base colour and some pale panels shown on the FFG website.

horror2For the second though, I decided to push the boat out a bit: I’d used a green primer for this round of monsters, and the pale green I’d used on one of the Deep Ones made for a nice additional layer over this, giving it a hint of brightness without looking too garish.

The blood red for the main body is a bit more of a departure from any of the sources I’d seen, but once it was muted down with the ink wash, I thought it still looked ok.

The final Monster from the Core Box was the Star Spawn. These are monstrous enough in size and shape that they really didn’t feel like they needed too much done to them in terms of outlandish colour. I kept with the fairly plain green spray primer, and touched up missing patches in a similar shade. I then tried to introduce a little bit of fairly weak purple into the tattoo-like patterns, and the protruding veins. I also added white for the eyes.


I’m still not 100% sure how to finish this one off. It feels like it needs a little bit more work- perhaps some tinting on the face tentacles, but as it doesn’t need a base, it’s easier to revisit later on.

Overall I’m fairly happy with these monsters. I think that the clear base instead of the large black plastic one is probably the biggest element in improving the aesthetics, but with clear bases, you definitely can’t paint after basing, so getting that done now was key.



It also didn’t really seem fair to hair the monsters in full technicolour whilst the investigators shuffled around in plain grey plastic, so I painted them too. There are colour pictures of the investigators on their character cards, along with various examples on the internet, so I didn’t need to put too much creative thought into these.


The hardest bit about the investigators was the bases. Whereas the monsters come with a peg that works well for attaching them to a base, the investigators are cast as a single piece with their base. I suspect that I could probably remove them from the bases without damaging the legs/feet in most cases, but re-attaching them to a clear base might well prove tricky.

Having decided to leave them on their bases, I then had to decide on colour. I attempted to recreate the cobbled-stones pattern of the outdoor tiles, but wasn’t happy with the result. Given how many different floors there are, I ultimately just went for grey, as the simplest option.

Just as I was reaching the end with painting these, the expansions arrived, complete with more monsters and investigators. I’m not sure how long exactly it will take me to get those painted, but I’ll be sure to post an update once I have.

Board Game Economics: Money, Trade and Value – part II

(Mostly) not free

Last time out, I talked about how I’d looked at some of the financial numbers behind the free games I’ve received to review this year and concluded, (not surprisingly) that the value was pretty good.

Presumably because I was looking for reasons to hate myself, I then attempted to spread the concept out more widely, across my whole games collection.

First of all, I looked at the 25 most-played games of 2016 so far and compared the hours of play this year with the money spent this year. Over half the games were either review copies or things I’d bought years ago, so the short-term value was fairly self-evident.

That said, there were a few games where I’d spent significant amounts of money this year – typically these are the games with an ongoing release format who’d managed to get me hooked, and I was buying the new content as it came out, sometimes because we really wanted something fresh to play, other times because I simply wanted to get the new-release-discount, and didn’t want to get too far behind.

Overall, the picture here was still good. Assigning a fairly arbitrary value of £5 per hour (more on that below), every game except 1 came out in the black. The game which looked to have “failed” to meet the value estimate was Dice Masters, which I’ll talk about more later.



notebooksThe second stage of the examination was a bit more complicated. I stayed with the most-played games of this year, but added an extra 3 so that I was covering the most-played for all the records I had.

I then tried to log all the plays of the games, and all the money I’d spent on them. This was a fairly flawed analysis on a number of levels – for one thing, I don’t remember what I spent on games 5 years ago, so I had to use current prices from online retailers, which are generally higher, due to several years’ worth of inflation and a weak pound.

I also only have records of which games I played going back to Christmas 2014. Before that, It’s an entirely hotchpotch selection: I know when I won (but not lost) Lord of the Rings LCG as far back as the autumn of 2011, and I have some erratic hand-written notes lying around for a fairly arbitrary selection of games that barely make it onto the list.

The resulting picture is unusual, and in some places downright misleading – some games look like great value, and others look terrible. To be precise, 9 are in the red for spending to hours of play value.


Games of Christmas Past

carcs When I looked a £/Hour, it was the low-play-count games that look really bad, things like Carcassonne and Dominion which were purchased, played a lot, expanded, played some more, then gradually fell out of favour. Neither “6 games of Carcassonne” nor “16 games of Dominion” comes anywhere close to showing how much time we’ve spent on these games historically. It also creates weird situations where some games, like Memoir ’44 currently don’t make the list, having only been played 2 times in the past 2 years, but as I noted in June’s gaming challenge update, this is a game that’s seen some serious wear and tear, which justified the big spend on expansions 5 years or so ago, and would look ridiculous now. On the plus side, I recently discovered that the BattleMap expansions I’d bought for this way back are now Out-Of-Print and very sought after – I managed to get £140 for 3 of them, which is definitely more than I paid originally.


How Long?

time It’s also worth commenting on game length. As I’ve decided to measure value in terms of a £:Hours ratio, I need to work out how long a game takes. This is problematic at best – very easy to say that Zombicide takes longer than Boggle (to use an extreme example), but exact numbers are trickier.

Taking an example where a small tweak makes a big difference. I’ve played Lord of the Rings 238 times in the last 22 months, wins and losses, and I’d opted for a fairly short play-time of half an hour, so that the ten-minute deaths and rage-quits would balance the hour+ grinds. However, the 243 sessions logged for the previous 3 years are definitely an incomplete figure as i.) they only include wins, and ii) they exclude entirely the first 4 months or so of the game’s life before the scoring system was changed. It’s possible that I could retrieve data for some of these sessions, but maybe I’d be better off increasing the game’s play-time from half an hour to 40 minutes, which instantly adds around £400 to the game’s “value”


How much?

ticket It’s also worth looking more closely about that “£5 per hour” figure. I think that I originally arrived at this based on a suggestion on Board Game Geek, equating games to Cinema Tickets. If we assume that all films are 2 hours long, and that a trip to the cinema costs £10, this gives a figure of £5 per hour.

Evidently, this is a simplification: Going to the cinema probably takes 3 hours rather than 2, but sitting watching adverts so that you can get a good seat, queuing, or just getting there in the first place seems like a poor thing to class as entertainment value. £10 for a ticket is slightly more than what it costs if you can manage to go off-peak with a Student card, but a bit less than a peak-time ticket, and by the time you average it all, and add in a bag of over-priced pick-and-mix, it’s probably a wash.

All of this, of course, assumes that “more time” = “better” in terms of the amount of entertainment you get. This is clearly an idea that has some truth to it: However much I might love Dobble, I’m not going to play it for 3 hours straight (that’s not strictly true, I sometimes play it for 8 hours at a time, but I get paid for that…) A short game may get played more often, but it’s still only entertaining you for a lowish number of hours of your life overall.

ascendancy Equally, we’ve all played games that ran too long – sometimes that’s a quirk of that particular session, other times it’s inexperience on the part of the players, and sometimes it’s just a design-flaw in the game. What I do know is that I recently got to try out Star Trek Ascendancy at the FLGS who were doing a big launch event with Demos. We played a 4-player game that lasted 5 hours, and I suspect most of us would have been tempted to pay £5 to have had it finish an hour earlier…


On your own?

Probably the biggest issue with the figures I’ve created is player-scaling. If I buy a board game, it’s cost me the same whether I play it solo, with 2, with 3 or with 4 (5-6 often requires an expansion…) Cinema Tickets by contrast are explicitly linked to the number of people attending. I might only pay £10 for a theoretical solo cinema trip (or more probably a trip with friends who don’t share my bank account), but mostly I go with my wife, and that’s then a £20 evening out. Should I be using £10 as the hourly figure instead? That would probably bring things much more in line with going to a gig, or the theatre and (of course) instantly prove that all Board Games are much better value than we previously thought.

elder-sign For games played in the last not-quite-two-years, I do have player-number information, and adjusting by player-number, the list of games that are “bad value” shrinks from 9 to 4, with the remainder looking far healthier: Carcassonne and Dominion remain victims of their old age and recent quiet,  Race for the Galaxy a little closer to looking like good value, and might even fall of the list entirely in a few months.

Of course, even scaling up for player-count does no favours for some games – for Dice Masters the problem is that it doesn’t really get played at home. If I play a handful of games down at the store, and the other guy is using his own cards and dice, paid for out of his own pocket, then it hardly seems fair to count his play-time towards my budget. Realistically, I’d only be able to add a handful of games by scaling for player-counts.


No Dice

booster Throughout this exercise, Dice Masters has been the big blot on the landscape: it’s the only game showing a (small) value “shortfall” based on the figures for this year alone, and the historic numbers are even worse.

I don’t think it’s any coincidence that the only game which comes out looking bad whichever way I measure it is also the only Collectible (i.e. randomised purchase) game that I play. I really enjoy Dice Masters, both as a game to play, and as a collecting exercise (there’s something very therapeutic about sorting dice) but this spreadsheet raises some fairly serious questions.

Collectible games, done well, offer a fairly low barrier to entry, but they also offer a dangerously open-ended upper ceiling to spending. There’s something dangerous in the human brain (mine at least) which sees sets and wants them to be complete (I’ve told my wife that I don’t mind whether our first child is a boy or a girl, but that the second has to be whatever the first one isn’t). I fairly quickly gave up on attempting to get a full set of the Super Rare or Chase Rare cards, but I know I’ve spent money on cards and dice as a collector that I’m unlikely to ever actually use as a player.

foilarrow With most of the casual sessions having dried up, most opportunities to play are in tournaments, which generally have an entry cost – always less that the “value” of the games the tournament will add, but still, something which slows down that process of catching-up: I did a Rainbow draft last weekend, in which I added £15 of “value” but paid £12 to participate. Of course, being a draft event, I came away with new cards and dice, and am hoping that if I can sell the Foil Ultra-Rare Green Arrow which I drafted, that that will actually wipe out the 2016 deficit.

Beyond that, the model for this game is designed around constant consumption – new sets come out all the time, and they bring in mechanics that can leave old teams behind if you’re not keeping up with the new releases. Draft formats are, arguably, the most enjoyable way to play the game, as well as the way that puts the most emphasis on player skill, but there is cost involved.

finest As I mentioned last time out, theoretical value and what I can actually liquidate things for tends to be a very different matter. If I’d known how quickly the player-base would evaporate, I wouldn’t have bought the World’s Finest set at Easter (this is the main set that really feels like a failure cash / play-value wise) – but selling it now might well not recoup the sorts of figures I’d be looking for to make things value for money.

The hourly rate for Dice Masters still doesn’t look too bad. The sheer number of plays spreads that shortfall gets spread pretty thin, and it works out at under £7 an hour. Still, I’ll have to be very careful moving forward.


Final Thoughts

Overall, the picture that this exercise has given me seems fairly accurate (if kind of obvious): Free games are great value. Free games that you then go mad and buy stuff for can still be good value if you play them a lot, but it’s easy to get carried away.

Games that require an ongoing, regular investment will easily rack-up the costs over time: if you play them a lot, they can still offer good value, but it’s easy to get lured into a false sense of value. Lastly, your old games will look like a poor deal, if you make calculations based on what things you bought 5 years ago would cost you now, but not on how much you played them.

Summarised like that, a lot of this looks blindingly obvious, but for me, this exercise has been helpful: I’m expecting some fairly major financial changes on the horizon and as Board Games are (apparently) a luxury item, the gaming budget is likely to get fairly well decimated. I’ve already given up the Game of Thrones LCG in order to free up some room/cash, and this sort of stop-and-reflect has definitely given me some useful food for thought as I make plans for the future.

Making the most of the Space

Typically, when you buy a board game, it comes in a box. If it didn’t, it would be fairly difficult to get it home, you’d probably lose things, etc, etc.

That said, there are boxes and there are boxes. Some games arrive in a box that is the perfect storage solution, whilst others are clearly not fit for purpose. Increasingly, I find myself building custom inserts for boxes, and thought I might offer a few thoughts in game boxes generally.

Vast, Cavernous and Empty

In opting for the “No box” approach, I may have lost one or 2 bits and pieces.

This was always the way games seemed to be done historically – If you think of a game like Yahtzee, it would typically come in a box the size of a couple of massive hardback novels, yet what you got inside was a pad of paper, 5 dice, some pencils, and a cup.

Given that the cup is superfluous, and most people already have pens or pencils at home, this could probably have been compressed substantially.

On the flip side, if you do despair of the massive box and chuck it, you may end up losing some of the components

That’s a lot of box for a few decks of cards and some metal tokens

Moving to move modern games, this is still a phenomenon we see regularly.

A Dominion set, or a new installment in the Legendary series will generally come in a large box, often with a plastic insert that looked like it could have been designed explicitly to fill out a box, and make it look like you were getting more than just a couple of decks of cards.



machikoro Of course, one reason to have a big box is if the game is destined for lots of expansions. The instant I opened up Machi Koro for the first time, I could tell that they had expansions planned – the box insert is still blotting out about half of the available space in the box, but once you’ve added an expansion or two, at least the insert itself doesn’t look too empty.

When you do get expansion after expansion though, you need to decide at what point you start splitting or combining the sets. I’ve long-since ditched the box for Machi Koro’s Harbour expansion, which would potentially be an issue if I ever wanted to split them up  (for example to sell the expansion and keep the base game).

If I was still using the original boxes, I’d have another the size of the small box, and another 4 the size of the large one.

Beyond a certain point, it just gets silly. It’s actually been quite a few years since I ditched the boxes for my Dominion collection, but if I still had them, I’d be looking at 5 large boxes and 2 small ones by this stage – that’s pretty much an entire shelf on the gaming case.

Instead, I bought a really useful box – this holds all the cards, and 95% of what I need for any game (there are one of two other odds and ends, plus some unused duplicates that I keep in a lone small box.

No Room at the Inn

The other issue with expansions goes the other way: I have a very early copy of the Firefly Boardgame, one which came in a compact box that was absolutely rammed full of stuff- obviously, there is an insert here, but I don’t think I’d be saving much space if I took it out.

fireflybox The problem is, when I’ve looked at the possibility of getting expansions in the past, most of the smaller ones which caught my eye didn’t come in the sort of size/shape/solidity of box that I’d want to use for long-term storage. If I’d bought the later edition, with the longer box, I could probably have squashed them in, but instead I’ve left my Firefly collection without expansions beyond the original “Breaking Atmo” deck.

Looking for components in all the wrong spaces

Sometimes there are games which come in a box that’s plenty big enough for all the stuff you’ll need to fit in it, but the inset prevents you. This can be bad design on the part of the manufacturers, or it can simply be the result of a different design philosophy.

The Original

pathfinderoriginalplastic Pathfinder Adventure Card Game is the perfect example of this. Each version of the game comes with a very similar looking plastic insert, designed to hold the cards by type, with separate spaces for constructed character decks, and other slots for the various expansion adventures.

The space for the expansion boxes was always a bit annoying: once you actually crack open the later adventures and start playing them, the cards all go in with the others of that type. Putting the cards back in their boxes is something that would only be relevant if you were going back to the beginning of the AP and play through it again, and even then, it isn’t the only option available.

I’ve had 3 Pathfinder APs now, and have taken a slightly different approach to each of them.

Rise of the Runelords

pathfinderwood Rise of the Runelords was the first AP, and it had a few issues – for one thing, the factory who printed the cards seemed incapable of getting the colours right, and the company behind the game decided to switch to a new printer- this made for a lot more stability long-term, but in the short-term, it meant a shift mid-cycle to noticeably different card backs. The card-back issue meant that in certain scenarios, you could identify the henchman/villain simply from the card-back, which is the type of information that you are definitely not supposed to have access to.

In the end, I splashed out for this one, and bought a wooden custom box insert. Broken Token seem to be the market leaders in this area, but availability outside of North America is not great, so I got mine from another company (I forget now whether it was Amazon or Ebay). The wooden insert is really solid, and offers a nice amount of flexibility. The only issue is that the rows aren’t wide enough for the baggy-fit penny sleeves that I normally use, and to fit properly, you have to have the more expensive standard-quality sleeves: For Runelords I’d decided to get those sleeves anyway, to hide the differing print-runs, so it wasn’t too bad.

This is definitely one of the nicest-looking storage solutions for a game that I have. It’s also, undoubtedly the most expensive. I don’t begrudge the spending on the sleeves that much, as the cards would have been shredded by now, given how many times we’ve played this game, but it probably wasn’t the most efficient way forward.

Skull & Shackles

pathfindercustomfoamFor AP2, Skull and Shackles, I made my own insert – I had the whole path in penny sleeves, and wanted to keep the costs down. I also had a growing number of the class decks, which arrive in impractically wide and shallow boxes that I wasn’t keen to keep, to I was able to accommodate a few of these as well.

Obviously this lacks the elegance of the Runelords insert. However, I doubt it cost me any more than a fiver in materials: the base is heavy card (artists’ mountboard iirc) and the walls are foamboard. A few of the dimensions aren’t 100% ideal – I wish I’d allowed more space to mix in class-deck cards, but overall, this feels very functional and efficient.

Wrath of the Righteous

pathfindergenericfoam Lastly (so far) was AP3 – Wrath of the Righteous. As I’ve talked about a length elsewhere, we didn’t really get on with this path, and whilst it contains some cool stuff we wouldn’t want to lose, I certainly wasn’t in any mood to go shelling out loads of cash on the box. Fortunately, I had these trays which I’d originally used for Runelords, they are all foamboard, and were done without less of the precise measuring than employed for the later sets – this means that some compartments are a bit too big, and others are quite snug, but it generally works a fairly multi-purpose tray.


Other crafting

Aside from the Pathfinder inserts, I’ve made foamboard trays for a few other games – For Lord of the Rings LCG, these have typically been open boxes that are the sole storage for that bit of the game.

mansionsopen The most recent, and perhaps the most ambitious was for Mansions of Madness. I’d already done some customisation on the figures, painting them up, and putting them onto clear bases (an idea I nicked from a guy on BoardGameGeek, but I now needed somewhere to put them – stacking all the loose components and the miniatures on top of the tiles was tricky, and with expansions in the works, it was clearly all going to go wrong.

mansionslidI made a foamboard tray for the tiles, with a shelf to go on top and hold the miniatures. The end section was left for the cards and tokens, but I had an added problem that the Star Spawn figures are so tall that they wouldn’t fit inside the box if I made their shelf as high as it would need to be to hold all the tiles – I therefore ended up with a split-level insert.

Typically I make these inserts fairly plain and functional, but I still had the original box insert from FFG – a really nice piece of art, printed onto some strangely-folded cardboard that could have been designed for the sole purpose of making it harder to put things in the box. I cut a few bits to size, and stuck them to some slightly more solid card to cancel out the folds and flaps and (after a few mis-judged attempts, and a fair bit of trimming, it was done).

Overall, I’m pretty pleased with this- it certainly makes it a lot easier to store in the short-term. Long-term, a lot of the aesthetics will be lost, when I have to add in the extra-large tiles, but I decided that I’d rather have them lying on top than sacrifice the support underneath the large shelf – better have it look a bit plain than have it cave-in.

Overall thoughts

I don’t think that there is a perfect solution to the question of box sizes – make it too small and there’s no room in the box for expansions, make it too big and there’s no room on the shelf (or if you don’t bother with expansions). Build it to hold sleeved cards, and unsleeved ones will rattle around and fall out, make it for unsleeved, and sleeved cards won’t fit.

alhambrabig Overall, I think that between foamcore and Really Useful Boxes, there’s generally a solution to be had, typically at a fairly sensible price. Obviously I’d love to have enough money to put all my games in Broken Token style boxes, but I need to be realistic.

I’m just going to leave you all with a picture of the Alhambra Big Box, undoubtedly the best storage solution I’ve found that comes with the game itself. Of course, even that has its problems, as I’ll be talking about soon…

Board Game Economics: Money, Trade and Value – part I


Game Doesn’t Does Pay

I’ve been doing reviews Games for other people for about 7 months now, and overall it’s been a blast. I’ve picked up some games that I would never have seen otherwise, breathed fresh life into games that had been gathering dust for a while, and generally broadened my gaming horizons.

In terms of things that have actually reached me, I’ve had 19 games or expansions so far (I’m optimistic of more, some of them possibly in the post as we speak, but supplier re-stocks and delivery timeframes are not predictable, so I don’t want to count any chickens…)

Doing a few quick sums last week, I was quite surprised to discover just how much these games would have cost if I’d bought them at retail – I don’t want to go into exact figures, but it’s probably more than my net spend on gaming over the whole year.

The reviews I write certainly do take up time, both with the drafting, and (probably more so) with the formatting, images and SEO work, so if I sat down and calculated an hourly rate, I could imagine it getting disheartening. Given that it’s not generally arduous or unenjoyable work though, I’m happy to leave that figure as it is.

Of course, one of the practicalities of doing game reviews is the need to play a game, often quite a lot, and in a fairly concentrated fashion. There have been a few games amongst the things we’ve picked up that weren’t much fun, or just weren’t really right for us. Overall though, I think I’ve been getting better at identifying what’s going to suit our group, and a quick count suggests only about 10 hours or so spent playing games that were really ropey (or on additional sessions of other games that I would probably have given up on sooner if I didn’t have a review to write).

At a conservative estimate, I’d say that up to now, I’ve managed to get a good 170 hours’ worth of enjoyable gaming, based on the things I’ve been sent for free.


zombexpansions Of course, it’s never quite that simple. For one thing (as I may have mentioned before), I’m a bit of an expansion junkie. Whilst that’s good when I pick up a free expansion for Dominion or Elder Sign that inspires me to start devoting more play-time to a game I already own, it also means that I’ve inevitably ended up spending my own money expanding the games that I’ve acquired.

The biggest money pit in this respect was Zombicide Black Plague – in fact, a quick totting up this morning tells me that I’ve probably spent as much money on adding to this game as if I’d backed the KickStarter in the first place.

Overall, I don’t think that the “free stuff” to “money spent as a result of acquiring free stuff” ratio is bad, given how much I’ve enjoyed games like Zombicide – although there probably was an initial rush of excitement, or some self-justification (I can buy this expansion with the money I saved on getting the game for free…) I’ve calmed down pretty quickly, and am generally being a lot more targeted with what I buy extra bits for.

One of those which made way for something newer and better

This year has provided a definite refresher for what had become a fairly static games collection: some old things are getting moved along as I’m now playing newer and (generally) more enjoyable things. By the time the dust settles at year end, I don’t think I’ll be far off of breaking even on the “money spent on expanding review games” vs “money made from selling games” which is not at all a bad place to be for my main hobby.



As much as I know the internet isn’t the place to be posting details of every penny I spend, I do like to number-crunch. By my rough reckoning, the number of hours spent playing Zombicide this year, means that even if you count in the money spent on a birthday’s worth of expansions, the game overall still works out at less than £1.50 per hour (a figure which gets much better if you look at that rate on a “per-player” basis). Across the review games as a whole, if I knock out the time spent in laborious review play-throughs, I reckon I’m looking at less than £1 per hour.

In terms of individual games, there are only 4 (so far) where I’ve actually spent extra money. Zombicide I’ve already discussed, but here are a few quick thoughts on the other 3…



bsieged After Zombicide, B-Sieged is the main game I’ve added to: I bought a set of cards to use the B-Sieged characters in Zombicide (which I’ve counted as Zombicide spending), and also bought the big-box expansion for B-Sieged itself. The characters from this expansion are great, and have been helpful in the B-Sieged base game, as well as in Zombicide, but we’ve yet to get the expansion monsters to the table in a game of B-Sieged itself. B-Sieged is one of those games that’s good, but not quite great, and keeps getting pushed out. Right now, it’s sitting at about £4.29 spent per hour of play – given that all of those games have been 2+ players, £2.15 per person per hour is still not too shabby, although I will still be disappointed if this doesn’t get a few more run-outs by the end of the year.


Mansions of Madness

MansionsMansions of Madness 2nd Edition would probably still be good value if I’d paid the £85 it seems to cost online. Right now, all I’ve spent is a tenner on some bits and pieces to re-base the miniatures in a less ugly manner (big chunky black plastic bases really let down the aesthetic of an otherwise beautifully-presented game, and a spot of clear plastic does wonders for the overall effect). There’s a good chance I’ll get my wife an expansion for her birthday/Christmas (she is particular fan), but again, that looks like money well-spent.



superdungeonOne area where things get complicated is when games get traded. Krosmaster Quest was the only game I’ve had for review that actually felt like an inherently bad game, rather than just “not for us,” but I took consolation from being able to trade it for Super Dungeon Explore: Forgotten King, another game that would have set me back somewhere the wrong side of £70 if I were buying it normally. I really enjoyed the first few sessions we had of this, and picked up a couple of expansions which I saw in a sale. Along with the tenner spent on posting Krosmaster, that makes Super Dungeon  the other big cost Games Quest game for the year. The run-time is probably a bit longer than B-Sieged, so it’s only sitting at £4.50 per hour, again perfectly respectable when compared with going to any kind of live event. That said, one of the expansions hasn’t made it out of the box, getting brushed aside by some other new arrivals, so I want to make sure this hits the table before year end.



I haven’t yet picked up any of these in exchange for a game…

One important lesson that this year has brought home, is the difference between the theoretical value of a game, and the practical value of a game. I’ve sold 3 of the games I received, and each time I’ve done at a much lower price than it would cost me to buy the thing new. This is perfectly understandable: why would anyone pay close to RRP for a game that comes from a private individual, isn’t brand-new-in-shrink, and therefore doesn’t come with the guarantees / piece of mind you get from a retailer?

£55 for Age of Conan plus expansion is a hefty saving for the guy I’m selling to, more than worth his while, as the game is in mint condition. For me, it doesn’t measure up to the RRP (whatever the RRP was, it’s hard to tell, given the differing editions of the game), but it’s still £55 I didn’t have before, that I can use to offset the cost of some of those Zombicide expansions.

Trading is a much better way forward, if you can find someone who wants to deal. The Krosmaster / Super Dungeon trade allowed me to get a £75 game for only the cost of postage when there was no real chance that I could have sold for £75 and bought something else using cash – it also allowed the other guy the same thing.

The Power of Maths

For some of the games that I’ve been struggling to shift I’m planning on heading back into the murky world of Maths trades. For anyone not familiar with them, rather than need to find a straight swap for a game you’re interested in, a Maths Trade uses some fairly clever bit of software to find a big loop of traders – so A gives their game to B, B gives to C, C gives to D and D gives to A – (that’s a fairly simple version, it could easily involve 20+ people). Everyone gets rid of the game they no longer want, and in exchange receives a game they do want, without needing to find someone interested in a 1-for-1 swap.


Taking part in a Maths trade is a fair amount of work. First of all, you have to list all the games you’re looking to shift. Then, once everyone has listed, you have to trawl through the listings, and identify all the things you’d be interested in – this can be particularly painful as some people will mass-dump their entire collection (in last month’s UK maths trade, it looked like a German guy had listed German-language editions of about 200 games!). Once you’ve made you decision, there’s a form to fill in, listing what games you’d be prepared to part with in exchange for what, and what your order of preference would be for them. I’ve already listed a load of things for this month’s trade, but am slightly despairing of when I’m going to have a chance to file my wants, as there’s no weekend between listings ending, and wants needing to be submitted.

Once everyone has done their lists, the computer does its thing, and for each game you either get a “no trade” message, or a notification of where to send it.

So much more used than Puerto Rico ever was

I’m not quite sure what I’m going to be looking for going into these trades – there are a lot of listings for cash, but it’s hard to know where to pitch the value. Realism is important – I really want to try Descent, and can’t justify that initial outlay, but even if someone does list a copy, I need to seriously question whether anything I’m offering will be in the same range.

I also don’t want to get into the position of trading just for the sake of it – there’s no benefit in trading one game I never play for another I never play.

It’s been a few years since I did a maths trade. I’ve definitely had some good successes, like the time I traded Puerto Rico for Pandemic, but have also had experience of things not shifting. It can be fairly labour intensive, which is probably why I’ve not got involved for a while, but as my game collection grows through reviewing, it increasingly looks like the most practical way of moving things along profitably.


My slightly paranoid/OCD nature, coupled with the fact that only communicate with my boss and my editor by email hasn’t always made this year the easiest – I’ve wasted a fair amount of time panicking that games have been lost in the post and I’m going to be billed for them, when in fact they’re just out-of-stock / really busy in the warehouse, and haven’t been sent. Overall though, it’s been great. The sheer amount of games that I’ve got has been phenomenal, whether you measure it in RRP, hours of gaming, or just the amount of shelf and floor space being occupied. Long may it continue!

11 of 10 – Complete!

September’s update on the 2016 Gaming Challenges

It was a big month for gaming goals. The biggest news is that the 10 of 10 challenge came (more-or-less) to its conclusion, but it was also a fairly successful month for trimming the un-played as well.

11 of 10

This is done! ¾ of the way through the year, and as September comes to a close, the 10 of 10 challenge is complete.


mad20_featureThe game which carried me over the finish line was Mansions of Madness 2nd Edition. 7 games in August had put this one into a strong position, and it took about a week and a half of September to get the extra 3 tied up.

As this was a review game, I’m going to point people towards the Games Quest blog rather than going in to too much detail here, but there are a few things I want to touch upon.

mansions-madness-board-game-agatha-cultistFirst up is the app. One of the earliest articles I wrote for this blog was about the place of apps in Board Games, and as far as I can recall, I was pretty lukewarm on the whole topic. The implementation in Mansions though has been a real eye-opener, and has definitely redeemed the concept in my eyes.

I also want to praise just how atmospheric the gameplay in Mansions is. This is a game where there’s a definite sense of being able to empathise with your investigator as they go mad. I mentioned back in August that I hoped 2016 was finally the year where we got a good Cthulhu game that would make it to the table regularly, and so far it has not disappointed.

I’ve got a few wordy/number-crunchy articles in the pipeline at the moment, so I’m hoping to break things up soon with a picture heavy look at some of the painted miniatures from this game- keep your eyes peeled.

Beyond Baker Street

beyond-baker-street-board-gameGames reaching 10 plays, it seems, are a bit like buses: you wait ages for one, then two come along at once. Also reaching the magic ten this month, was Beyond Baker Street. This is another one I reviewed for Games Quest, a month or so back, and is basically a Sherlock-Holmes re-theme of Hanabi. Again, you can read a detailed account in the review, but my overall impression at this point is of a fun, engaging game – the sort where you lose and immediately want to try again and beat it, rather than losing and wanting to hide in a cupboard for a day or so.


brainsDespite this “completion” there were a few issues with “10 plays” list  – for one thing, I realised whilst I was logging plays for a different spreadsheet that I’d been slightly inconsistent with my accounting: for Bananagrams and Boggle, I’ve been operating a strict policy of 1 session = 1 play. I belatedly realised though, that I hadn’t been applying the same principal to Zombie Dice, despite it being a game of similar length, and similar likelihood of doing multiple games in a row. Fortunately, we’d played this game enough that even after the adjustments had been made, I could still count 10 distinct sessions, , although it should have come in July, and after Bananagrams, not back when originally claimed on here.

This was also the month when I managed to get my hands on a review copy of Pandemic: Reign of Cthulhu. It was as much fun as I remembered, but it did pose an interesting problem. With 8 games of regular Pandemic already played this year, that meant that as soon as I completed the second game of Cthulhu, the ‘family’ had made it in to double figures. What do I have? Is it one game played ten times? Or 2 games with a single-fingered-handful of plays for each of them?

Ultimately I decided to count it as 2 games. The base-level mechanics of the two games are, certainly, very, very similar, but there is no compatibility between them. For every familiar aspect you spot, there is a different twist.

Thinking about other games which I have grouped together, something like Pathfinder ACG comes from 3 entirely distinct base-sets, but at least 80% of the cards (possibly more) could be slotted in to a different set without causing any mechanical problems. Marvel Legendary is clearly one game no matter how many expansions you have, but playing Legendary Big Trouble in Little China this month, I decided that that too was similar enough to go under the same umbrella.

Doesn’t really work, does it…

There are a few other games where I’m in doubt over about grouping: take Carcassonne and Star Wars Carcassonne – if you’ve played the original, you’d be hard-pressed to miss the similarity between the versions, but there is more than just the colouring to differentiate them game-play wise: both the faction affiliation of terrain features and the dice-based combat drastically alter the levels of interaction involved, and the lack of farmers is guaranteed to confuse Carcassonne veterans taking their first steps into a Galaxy Far, Far Away.

Command and Colours is also tricky, 2 games bearing the name (Ancients and Napoleonic), and 1 under a different brand (Memoir ’44) that all replicate the same basic structure (units on a hexagonal board, activated by playing a card that targets a sector, attack opposing units with custom dice), but spin the theme different ways and to different levels of complexity in order to reflect the theme of a particular era and warzone. For the moment, none of these other games have been played enough for the counting to make a huge difference, but it’s still a question to bear in mind for the long-term.

The Future of 10?

Even though the challenge itself is complete, I’m going to keep an eye on the double-figures threshold. The “easy” version of the challenge is complete (as opposed to the “Hardcore” version where you have to pick the games before you start playing), but for me this challenge was much more about having a useful yardstick for balanced gameplay, and I want to see what else winds up joining the list. There is also a part of me that wants to have ten “worthy” games on the list, and there is that slight sense that the game which was played exactly ten times then sold, and/or the 5-10 minute fillers don’t quite fit this.

For now though, it’s a relief to have hit the “10 of 10” target, and I’ll keep you updated on what follows.


3 of 9

The “un-played since last year” list was down to 9 at the start of September, and it has continued to grow shorter.


BlockedA slight surprise disappearance from the list was Settlers of Catan. This had been dusted off for September’s Modern Classics article, and it struck me a.) just how much stuff I had for this, and b.) just how little enthusiasm I had for playing it. In the end, I decided that this was a game I could get some money for (enough to be worth selling), that was never going to hit table, unless it was for the reason of “I need to get this off of the list.” It’s gone, and has hopefully found a happy hope elsewhere.


avalonI was also quite pleased to get Avalon off of the list. I backed this on Kickstarter a few years ago, having heard good things about The Resistance, and liking the Arthurian theme. We played it once, and it fell really flat. Nobody seemed that enthused, there was some confusion about what was going on, and at least one character was missing a piece of crucial information, but had no way to bring this to my attention without giving away his identity (and the secret identity is basically the whole point of the game).

This time, things were much more successful. I’d spent a bit of time making sure I was extra clear on the rules, and probably did a better job of explaining it than last time. We also improvised some more story around the quests that we were sending people on, and had two really enjoyable games. A personal highpoint was in the second game where, as Percival, I’d figured out who Merlin was, and had managed to identify the evil 4. I then appeared to “reluctantly out myself as Merlin” in order to ensure that my wife didn’t send any of the traitors on the final quest, and followed it up by feigning dejection with our hollow victory so well that the assassin targeted me, and we won the game. (Apologies to anyone not familiar with the game, for whom that account will have made no sense).

As a game which probably needs 7 to be enjoyable, this isn’t likely to get lots of time on the table, but after this most recent session, I’m much happier at having got it in the first place.


Everyone wants to be remembered for beheading the King, but the palace guard will do – just don’t antagonise the mob by being the one who kills the martyr…

Guillotine is a light, quick, family-friendly game about beheading Frenchmen. You heard. The basic premise is that players are executioners during the French Revolution, trying to earn the most adulation and glory by executing the most famous and hated figures, and avoiding the heroes and martyrs popular with the masses.

Played over three “days” each day sees a dozen nobles lined up next to a Guillotine. On your turn you may play an action card, then you take the first noble from the front of the line, then you draw an action card. Actions cards can be used to manipulate the order of the line, allowing you to grab Marie Antoinette (at 5 Points, the most valuable card in the game), chuck the Hero of the People (-3 Points, the least valuable card in the game) into an opponent’s pile, or generally tweak things in your favour.

There’s obviously some strategy to this game: you need to manipulate the line to your advantage, but obviously your opponent will be doing the same, and there’s no real advantage to shunting a negative card out of the way for this round if you’re going to have to pick it up next term – you might be better off grabbing something high value, and just living with the small setback.

This was a fun enough game – it used to get played a lot back in the day, and after a few minutes, the rules all clicked fairly easily. Some of the packaging decisions seem a bit sub-optimal (if you got rid of the cardboard guillotine, it would all fit in a standard deck-box, and the cards might not get quite so warped), but it’s still far from huge, and I expect it’ll be sticking around.

At this stage, crossing off the final 6 looks like it will be fairly do-able. They can all be played with 2, even if it’s not the optimum way to go, and probably the biggest thing needed is just a mental shove on my part.


The New

As mentioned at the end of August, it’s now getting to the time to be looking over my shoulder at the games played last year, but not yet this year.

This group is actually larger than those which are un-played altogether (8 vs 6 at time of writing), probably down to a mixture of factors, including the fact that I wasn’t actively targeting this group from January, the fact that there was nothing in here that was so unlikely to get played that I actually sold it (at least not yet) and of course, the fact that my reviewing job means the pile is constantly being added to.

Obviously it would be ideal not to have any games I own that go a whole year without being played, and I’ll certainly be paying careful attention to games that are still there at the end of the day. That said, I certainly won’t be losing sleep over this list, and I know that this is only one aspect of some fairly detailed number-crunching as I try to decide which games are not earning their keep and need to be moved on.

Zombicide Black Plague: Zombie Bosses Expansion Review

What’s that coming over the hill?

bossboxPreviously here on Fistful of Meeples, I’ve reviewed some additional assistance for the Survivors in Black Plague, through the extra Vault Weapons available via NPC box 1. Now it’s time to even things up by offering reinforcements for the forces of darkness through the Zombie Bosses box. This expansion comes with 3 new unique Abominations, and the cards and tokens needed to use them in a game of Zombicide: Black Plague.

Abominations: The Basics

Abominations are the largest and the toughest of the Zombies in the base game – whereas Walkers and Runners can be killed with any weapon, and Fatties need something that does 2 Damage, Abominations are damage 3 monsters: In the base game, there are no 3-damage weapons, meaning you have 2 possibilities.

  • Get Sampson, wielding a hammer (or some other 2-damage weapon) up to the Red Level where he can choose the “Melee: +1 Damage” skill.
  • Discard a “Dragon Bile” Equipment card and a “Torch” equipment card in the Abomination’s space, to start Dragon Fire.

The first retail expansion for Zombicide: Wulfsburg brought new options. The Vampire Crossbow, a weapon that any Survivor above Blue level can wield is a 3-damage weapon, and kills Abominations straight out. There are also various weapons (Chaos Longbow, Flaming Great-Sword, Dragon-Fire Blade) which make it easier to start a Dragon Fire, and the Earthquake Hammer, a 2-damage Weapon which goes up to 3 damage on a roll of 6.

In return for these extra ways to kill Abominations, Wulfsburg gave you the Wolfbomination. Like a normal abomination, but 3 times as fast.

Now, “Wave 2” has hit. Between the Kickstarter content (much of it available via eBay etc if you weren’t a backer), and the gradual release of retail expansions, there are now any number of ways to get to 3 damage, via character abilities, and new weapons.

That’s where the Zombie Bosses come in: with all these ways to kill their champions, the Zombies need more bosses, and more powerful ones at that. Let’s see what this box has to offer.



bosscontentsWhen you open the box, the first thing you see is the 3 Miniatures for the new bosses. Miniatures is a word I use loosely. The Ablobination is only about the height of a normal Abomination (although it does have a very long arm), but the Abominatroll and the Abominatour are both massive, towering over even the Wolfbomination.

My first impressions on the miniatures were fairly mixed: on the one hand, they are clearly good quality figures, the detail is good, the construction looks solid (it’s disappointing, but completely understandable that the Abominatroll needs a support pin), and there was slightly less in the way of excess casting/misalignment than on most of the other packs I’ve bought.

troll-blobThat said, neither the Abominatroll, nor the Ablobination particularly caught my imagination figure-wise. Abominations are supposed to be the results of crazed experiments on the part of evil Necromancers to create bigger and nastier foes, and that was something you could see easily in the standard Abomination and the Wolfbomination. Here by contrast, we’re lacking a frame of reference for what a ‘normal’ troll looks like before you abominate it, and the Ablobination is just plain weird.

minotaurNone of that particularly bothered me, because I think the third miniature in the box is just brilliant.

Whilst we don’t have a non-abomination version of a Minotaur, I think it’s an easy enough concept to imagine, that it’s easy to see what a great job they’ve done with the Abominatour. Where the Ablobination is just sort of sitting there, and the Abominatroll is lunging so wildly he needs propping up, the Abominatour is a perfect combination of a solid pose that still oozes dynamic energy. A definite winner for me.



Obviously, in a miniatures game like this, the sculpts are important, but as nice as the components may look, we wouldn’t still be getting bits for it the gameplay wasn’t fun, and the Zombie Bosses need to earn their keep in this regard too.


We’re in!

As with the miniatures, so with the gameplay: the Abominatour was the one I was most excited to play. Unlike every other Zombie in the game, which needs to carefully navigate a path around buildings and through doors, the Abominatour works out where the noisiest square is, and he just goes there – destroying any walls which stand in his way (and meaning that any other zombie can now follow in his wake). The expansion comes with little cardboard tokens to mark the destruction he has wrought.

In practice, having an Abominatour on hand certainly changes the gameplay, sometimes dramatically. The fact that he can open up (and spawn) locked buildings, or smash through walls into places that would otherwise be inaccessible without specific objectives can really turn things on their heads. The most extreme example feels like it would be Welcome to Wulfsburg – where an Abominatour who spawns at the top of the map could change things very quickly (and make for a really short quest). We’ve also managed to break in to the central complex in The Black Book Without finding the required objective by using the Minotaur.


Troll and Blob

XuxaThe other two bosses definitely felt more like they were just more-powerful versions of the abomination: the troll gets extra activations if he can see you which makes him in to essentially a Wolfbomination will a little bit more strategy involved, whilst the Ablobination can only be destroyed with Dragon-Fire, taking you back to the core-box only days without 3-damage weapons.

The dragon-fire only restriction is particularly relevant if you’re bringing in lots of powerful survivors – In a game with Xuxa, an Abomination is just another big zombie (once she has Quicksilver Sword and +1 to dice roll combat, it’s pretty hard for her to miss), and pegging things back to a point where you need dragon fire felt like a good counterbalance.


Overall Thoughts

I’m definitely glad I bought this box. I’m not generally one of these people who find games “too easy” and if you chuck in all 12 spawn cards for the monsters in this box, you could quickly find yourself in trouble (we did that once. We died horribly). Used in moderation though, they have great potential to add variety to the game, and they do allow you to use some of the extra content which benefits survivors, without losing all the tension from the game.

A few months ago, I backed Cool Mini Or Not’s latest big Kickstarter project, Massive Darkness, including a Zombicide Crossover kit which includes card to use various monsters, including these 3 in the new game. I’m sure they’ll have plenty to keep them busy over the intervening 9 or so months, but it’s nice to know that there are fresh victims out there waiting to be eaten…


I’m slowly painting all my Zombicide figures. A lot of the Walkers and almost all of the Wolves are still awaiting the technicolour treatment, but something as spectacular as these guys went straight to the front of the queue.

bosseswipThat said, they were a challenge. For one thing, I’d never painted anything as big as the Abominataur or the Abominatroll (not with any level of detail, I seem to recall there was an Airfix Lancaster bomber 20 years ago…) beyond that, the colour scheme isn’t immediately obvious. There are images of all 3 of these in the rulesheet, but it’s hard to tell where to draw the line between “natural” colours and the thoroughly outlandish.

paintedIn the end I decided to keep the flesh on the Blob and the Minotaur fairly ‘natural’ – these are sufficiently weirdly shaped that there’s no need to make them lime green or shocking pink to convey their otherness. For the troll a selection of greyish green (based German Fieldgray, highlighted with “Grey Green”) seemed more fitting. I used a brighter metallic colour than normal to pick out the armour on the Minotaur, just because there’s so much otherwise uninterrupted flesh, and used a thin wash of red over all the bits that look like boils/swellings, as well as a few green tints, just to add an unhealthy look.


Overall, I’m fairly pleased with how these turned out. As always, the flagstone effect on the bases really seems to set the miniatures off. I’m under no illusion that these are a particularly high standard, and they’re certainly not about to win any painting awards (I lack the patience/skill for the many-layered highlighting and blending) but they look great for our games, and overall these Zombie bosses are a fun addition to an already brilliant game.

This means (Civil) War

CivilWar As I mentioned a few weeks back, August saw the latest expansion for Marvel Legendary: Civil War. This is a big-box expansion, on a par size-wise with Dark City or Secret Wars (volume 1 or 2). As you’d expect, it offers a whole load of new content for the game, including new Schemes, Masterminds, Heroes, Villains, keywords, and mechanisms.

If you’re not familiar with Legendary already, you should check out my Game Summary, or the review I did for the base game.

A time of turmoil

The Civil War box for Legendary refers to the original comic-book crossover event from 10 years ago, when Nitro accidentally blew up a bus full of schoolchildren, leading to a wave of public concern about powered individuals running around without accountability or oversight. This demand ultimately led to the Superhero registration act. Whilst Tony Stark championed the public identification and state regulation of superheroes, Captain America demanded continued independence and anonymity, leading to a bitter conflict which ended with a public brawl in the middle of New York City. This comic-book arc, rather than the recent Marvel film, or the current “Civil War II” event, seems to be what the guys at Upper Deck have focused their attentions on.


zemo In the Civil War set for Dice Masters that was released a few months ago, the Thunderbolts and the New Warriors both played a significant role, the Thunderbolts in particular were an interesting departure for that game, as they were the first mixed Villain/non-villain team we had seen.

Legendary keeps things rather simpler. The Thunderbolts, along with Registration Enforcers, CSA Marshalls, and even the Great Lakes Enforcers appears as villain groups, but the playable heroes are far less creative. We have Marvel Knights like a new Daredevil, and one half of Cloak and Dagger. We also get the Young Avengers (Hulkling, Patriot, Stature, Wiccan), but they fall under the “Avengers” affiliation rather than being a new team. There are other Avengers: Captain America (Again!) Falcon, Goliath, Hercules, Tigra, Vision, as well as a few miscellaneous others like Speedball (New Warriors) and Peter Parker (Spider Friends).

speedball In terms of team affiliations, this set feels a bit underwhelming. This far into the game’s life, Avengers are such a well-developed theme that you have to feel there would have been potential to take things in a slightly different direction. That said, we would probably all have got annoyed if we were left with “Young Avengers” characters that had no discernible synergy with their elder companions, so this was probably the “safe” option long-term (so long as the upcoming Deadpool expansion is suitably crazy). There is a certain amount of logic in having Speedball as the only New Warrior after the bus explosion, but they could have given us a version of Firestar or Nova with that team.



lukejess Division and faction are obviously big themes in Civil War, and it was only natural that the game would want to capture something of this. The principal way in which this has been done, is through “Divided” cards.

A divided card is 2 cards in one – when it’s in your hand it counts as 2 different cards then, when you play it, you choose one side or the other, and are only considered to have “played” that one. Some divided cards simply represent another aspect of the character, whilst others will actually contain a different character entirely – for example, Luke Cage’s divided card features Jessica Jones on the other side, and Peter Parker’s features Aunt May.

cloakdaggerDivided cards are a nice idea – thematically it makes a lot of sense, it means that the cards you buy are more flexible, being able to be tailored to different situations, and often introduces a lot more decision-making when you actually get to your turn (often one card will offer the stats you want, but the other will have the class or affiliation you need to trigger an ability). The main problem for me, is how it appears visually – you have to play Divided cards sideways and, because the overall piece of cardboard is only the same size a standard card, that means that the half you play will only be 50% of the size. It just makes everything feel a bit squashed, and looks slightly odd.

Some Heroes are pairs, rather than individual – Cloak & Dagger both feature on all 4 cards in their set, as do Storm & Black Panther on theirs. Obviously, there’s plenty of logic tying these pairs together, but even here, things fall apart somewhat, with the Rare card being a “both-together” card, which inexplicably carries only 1 affiliation and 1 class.

The fact that every hero released in this set has at least one divided card, also leads to some slightly strange combinations – when it’s two versions of a single character, that’s easy enough to follow, but when it’s someone else it gets hard to keep track: I’m sure there is a reason why Hercules finds himself sharing a card with Amadeus Cho, but it was lost on me.


Character choices

I can see this ending badly…

Some characters make a lot of sense in Civil War. It was inevitable that we would see Cap and Iron Man. Goliath and Ragnarok play big roles, and having Peter Parker exposed as the identity of Spider-Man is right on the money.

That said, there were still things I wasn’t a massive fan of. There are only so many Hero versions of Captain America that we need (there are currently as many ways to play Steve Rogers as there are to play the entirety of X-Force), and it would have made a lot more sense to me if we’d had a Cap Mastermind/Commander, and/or Iron Man as a hero. Also, whilst it was inevitable, given the ongoing nonsense over rights and royalties, the lack of a new Reed Richards or Sue Storm felt very out-of-place for a set claiming to be based on the original Civil War comics.

hawkeye Other choices I wasn’t a fan of based on personal taste. The fact that Patriot gets the full 14-card treatment, whilst Kate Bishop (or Lady Hawkguy as I like to think of her) is confined to a cameo appearance on Patriot’s divided card, was a bit of a let-down for me. It doesn’t really do justice to someone who I think is a much more interesting character, AND it suggests we’re less likely to get a full version of her any time soon.



Civil War also features various new Keywords appearing on cards: Fortify, Size-Changing and SHIELD clearance.

unbreakable I think it’s almost inevitable this far in to the game’s life that new keyword affects can get a bit janky, and Civil War is definitely no exception to this.

A nice idea, but awkwardly implemented, is “fortify” – this allows cards to occupy strange spaces on the board (it might be a city square, but it can also be a deck, a card pile, etc), making villains harder to fight, heroes harder to recruit, cards harder to draw, or wounds less likely to be acquired. The main problem, is the throwaway explanation they get in the rules, which strongly implies that only a villain will ever be fortifying a space, and leaves lots of gaps in the concept to be filled in. How do you show that this space is fortified? How can it be “un-fortified”? Thematically, I could see where some of these were going (like the Luke Cage who fortifies the wound stack, so prevents people from taking damage), but overall, it felt hit-and-miss.

It’s a surprise really that Cassie Lang isn’t more traumatised by her upbringing…

Size-Changing is a keyword which reflects the ability of some characters to grow or shrink. As such, it allows you to recruit people like Stature or Goliath for a reduced cost, if you’ve already played a card of a certain type this turn, or to fight some villains more easily with the same conditions. This one just felt a bit flat and underwhelming. Occasionally it made it slightly easier to buy/defeat a card, or had some slightly altered impact for things based on printed cost/fight, but mostly it didn’t seem like it was doing much.

SHIELD Clearance is simply a requirement to discard a SHIELD hero as an additional cost of fighting that villain. There’s certainly some merit to this – it makes those starter heroes slightly less useless, and gives you something to think about when purging your deck of cards (you don’t want to reach a point where you’ve none left, and can’t fight the Villains / Mastermind), but in practice it mostly just felt frustrating.



wounds Aside from the standard Heroes/Villains/Schemes, Civil War does a lot of tinkering, rather than a whole lot of brand new things. You won’t find a completely new pile here, like when Sidekicks or Ambitions were implemented, but you will find additions to existing piles: the wound stack now has a selection of Grievous Wounds shuffled in – Wounds which have an additional condition to being healed. Likewise, the Sidekick stack has a big group of Animal sidekicks added.

Grievous wounds aren’t supposed to be nice, and there’s a definite sense of frustration when you get one. That said, I’m not sure they really impacted gameplay that much for us: they can still be KO-ed by card effects, and it’s only if you skip the recruit and fight part of your turn to use the “Healing” action that it really becomes relevant.

Lockjaw also clearly the wrong affiliation – not that we have an “Inhuman” team- yet…

The animal sidekicks seem like a fun idea. Unlike normal sidekicks, they have a Class and a Team affiliation, so they can be useful for triggering abilities. However, the random selection that you get makes it hard to deck-build with any consistency, and the affiliation is only useful if you have Avengers (it’s a definite disadvantage if you’re collecting X-Men [or Spider-Friends, Guardians etc] in the Avengers vs X-Men Scheme. The “Benefits” of class and affiliation are offset by generally having reduced powers – only drawing a single card, or rescuing a bystander, rather than that reliable card draw. We played with these a fair few times, but found them more frustrating than helpful, and have now gone back to normal Sidekicks.

As an aside: Lockheed being an Avenger annoyed me, and I would have much preferred if he’d had the X-Men affiliation. This generally served to rub in the fact that we still don’t have a non-parallel-universe Kitty Pryde (I’d take a Guardians affiliation, if we can’t have another X-Men version).

Final Thoughts

Overall, Civil War was a bit of a mixed bag from my perspective. It gave me fresh inspiration to get Legendary off of the shelf (I have played it a lot in the past couple of weeks), and provided some interesting new elements, but overall, it felt a bit underwhelming.

For the most part, I don’t think this expansion is bad: there are various bits and pieces I’ll continue to use, even if others (Animal sidekicks etc) will probably be staying in the box for a while, it’s just not as exciting as others. Still a must-buy for the completist, but if you’re new to Legendary, I’d recommend getting most, if not all of the other available content first.