Half-Time

Football Game2018 is absolutely flying by. Our newly-crawling baby has been replaced by a rampaging toddler, a whole host of new games and new expansions have come, pushing some of the old stuff out of the way, and England, Germany, Argentina, Portugal, Spain and Brazil have been knocked out of the World Cup! (that list is going to date VERY quickly)

 

As we sit down for a moment to munch our half-time oranges, this felt like a good moment to stop and do a bit of a retrospective on the year so far.

Ark-Zom
Our literal A-Z of gaming…

The very top of the gaming charts look very familiar – Arkham Horror and Zombicide are miles ahead of the other games, with Arkham leading by Sessions, Zombicide by Hours (although Green Horde has largely taken over from Black Plague whilst it’s new and shiny). Pandemic Legacy dominated January, but has fallen quiet, and sits in third place.

Elder Sign, Lord of the Rings, Legendary, all games that we’ve been playing for years, are all also in double-figures.

DragonfireBoxThat said, there are also a fair number of less-predictable names: Dragonfire and Gloomhaven came in late last year, and have had strong showings this year. Other titles like Hogwarts Battle and The City of Kings are brand new for 2018. Right now, I think The City of Kings would be my pick for best newcomer, but still a lot to play for.

 

Money-wise, spending is a fair way down vs last year: I’ve spent about half what I did in the first 6 months of 2017, and I’ve sold about half what I had by this point: overall things look pretty good, but knowing the upcoming stuff I’ve got my eye on for the rest of the year, I’ll need to be careful and/or find some more bits and pieces to shift.

 

Kicks

InvaderI’ve backed 2-ish Kickstarters this year. Folklore: the Affliction was a $1 back from last year where I eventually decided to dive in fairly heavily: expecting this sometime in the autumn. I also got The City of Kings as a birthday present, and have Kickstarted the expansions/minis, although after much deliberating, I decided against the wooden resources/plastic overlays/quick set-up tray. Lastly came Zombicide Invader, where I went for the $1 option, then ultimately decided against it – I’ll do my best to bag a review copy of the core game next year, but there’s only so much I can really justify spending on Zombicide.

In terms of Kickstarter arrivals, it has mostly been the story of the Green Horde, with Wave 1 (Core Box) and Wave 2 (everything else) neatly bracketing the first half-year as they arrived in late Jan and early Jun respectively.

A last-minute sneak-in was The Ninth World, which arrived with very little fanfare around June. June being a bit of a bumper month already meant that this has barely hit the table.

 

On the way out

Runewars Miniatures was the game that really died a death this year – organised play locally dried up, the store championship was cancelled, and I think most people moved on to Shadespire. I’m finishing painting up some figures and planning on selling the whole lot shortly. As the base game was a review, I’m optimistic about getting somewhere near break-even on this, if not better.

L5R-2Legend of the Five Rings is great fun, and a real brain-burner. That said, it’s still very much a FLGS-only thing for me, and I’ve only managed 7 sessions this year. The Phoenix clan pack never actually made it to us, but we’ve recently hit another of their meta-juggling 6 packs in 6 weeks periods, and I just can’t justify £80 or so on a game I’ve only played 7 times in 6 months. This one has been sold. (I should really head to the Post Office).

Another great game which doesn’t get played is Rising Sun – Samurai + Monsters, it’s an epic 3+ hour dudes-on-a-map game for 3-5 would be Shoguns who like making a breaking alliances and stabbing each other in the back. Fantastic game which looks absolutely beautiful, definitely not my wife’s cup of tea. It’s the sort of thing I’ll be happy to play if opportunities present themselves, but I can’t really justify the real estate of having my own copy – again, this is going, assuming I can find a buyer.

 

Breaking it Down

6 Month ThemeAs has been the case for the last little while, Fantasy, Zombies and Lovecraft have been the big themes for 2018’s games so far, each accounting for about a quarter – Zombies are slightly behind, a factor which is more pronounced when looking at the by-sessions stat.

The rest of the break-down is rather more mixed, Fantasy is still predominantly “generic” which lumps together both the truly generic, like Dungeon Alliance and games with their own unique if ill-defined setting like Massive Darkness or Gloomhaven. Ageless Realms is the placeholder term I’m using for The City of Kings, and that’s been a notable feature, along with The Lost Realms (D&D), Gravehold and Middle Earth.

Mechanically, the dominant categories are both familiar and somewhat overlapping: Solve the Mystery, Save the World, Complete the Quest and just plain old “Survive” – those 4 categories account for 75%+ of what we’ve done so far.

 

Second half?

I’m not quite sure what else is still to come this year. I’ve got my eye on CMON’s upcoming Death May Die – we still don’t have a lot of detail yet, but the early hints sound good. Eric Lang’s name on the box means I’m hopeful that this will be more than just a stack of minis, but we’ll have to see. In the meantime, there’s this, which is stupid. And a tiny bit awesome, but mostly just stupid.

Arydia: The Paths we Dare to Tread is another interesting one. I can’t remember how this first came on to my radar, but it’s raised a fair few interest flags: open-world exploration, “green legacy.” IIRC, it’s come from the guy who designed the highly-popular Xia, so I’ll definitely be keeping my eyes open.

7th Continent isn’t a new game, but it might be becoming available again, at least briefly, and I’ll try to grab a copy if I can (of course this comes with an inevitable “how much should I get” discussion of its own).

In terms of non-kickstarter games, there’s not as much forthcoming that I’m aware of: Heroes of Terrinoth is the Warhammer ACG re-skinned for the Runebound universe, and should be out fairly soon, and there will (obviously) be the normal run of expansions for the various LCGs I follow.

 

Aims?

I still need to finish of my Hardcore 10×10 challenge for the year: there are only 4 games left which need to hit the target: 1 more session of Gloomhaven, 2 of Aeon’s End, 3 of Massive Darkness and 5 Mansions of Madness. Hopefully it shouldn’t take much longer. The ‘normal’ 10×10 should get swept up by that fairly quickly, if it isn’t done even sooner.

I still want to get a lot more play out of Shadows of Brimstone. I’ve started adding expansions to flesh the game out a bit, and have made new fine-tune the character sheets as well – in one recent session, my wife spent 80% of the game rolling 2 dice instead of 3 for every single attack, simply because we’d missed a bonus from the previous game.

Right now, as best as I can calculate, I own 80 games, and have played 59 of them this year, which leaves 21 unplayed. Some of those are titles I’ve tried to sell, but not yet found anyone interested at the right price. Others are titles I enjoy and just haven’t found the time for yet. With a few more games expected inbound (not necessarily vast numbers), it’s probably time to prune the collection once again.

 

I’ll keep updating, posting bits and pieces when I can. Keep checking back and, if anything exciting happens, you’ll see it here first…

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June: it never rains, but it pours(?)

 

 

As I mentioned last month, May didn’t really see a lot in the way of new games. June was rather different.

JuneNewGamesNew Games: Black Orchestra, Kingdomino, Legacy of Dragonholt, SMOG: Rise of Moloch, T.I.M.E Stories, and something called Backpacks and Blisters (it was a Mystery game).

Expansions: Forgotten Age Deluxe, Labyrinths of Lunacy (last year’s Gen Con quest) and Threads of Fate Mythos pack, all for Arkham LCG. Frontier Town for Shadows of Brimstone, Sanctum of Twilight for Mansions of Madness, and Wilds of Rhovanion for LotR LCG.

Kickstarter: Zombicide Green Horde Wave II & The 9th World.

All-in-all, that’s 7 new games, and extra bits for 5 existing games. Just a few things to get through then…

 

Expo

ExpoBefore all that though, there was Expo. UK Games Expo is the first weekend in June, and is now the 3rd largest Gaming Convention in the world! This was the 4th straight year I’ve made it along, and it’s turning into a definite highlight.

That said, this year was a bit of a grind. I was working for Games Quest again, and various issues with the lorry company meant a really long Thursday, and a bit of a slog to get everything sorted: we were busy throughout the show, and I didn’t get to see nearly as much as I have in other years – on reflection, the guys who worked part of the show, and took a day to look around might have had the right idea.

Still, it was good to catch up with people, even if the evening gaming was limited by how late we got back to the hotel, and how knackered everyone was.

 

10 of 10

I went into June fairly confident of hitting 10 of 10: I already had 8 games played 10 times, and was at 9, 9, 8, and 7 on a few others. The Hardcore challenge was probably going to take a bit longer, but I was optimistic of taking a further dent out of it.

All of which goes to show what I know.

I finished June still at 8 games played 10 times / 10 games played 9 times: we had 27 sessions of games that had already hit 10 plays (mostly Arkham, Zombicide and Lord of the Rings), and most of the rest of our time was spread between games that had barely been played before this month.

Twilight BoxThe Mansions of Madness expansion I’ve been waiting on for ages finally arrived about 1 week in to the month, but it didn’t make as much of a difference as I’d expect – it started the month a long way behind the other “hardcore” games on a mere 4 sessions, and this only bumped it to 5. We managed to successfully complete the parade scenario at our first attempt, although it definitely felt like there were a number of different ways it could have played out, and we haven’t even looked at the second. Maybe it’s the weather – glorious sunshine just doesn’t feel that Lovecraftian!

10of10-2018-JunA single session of Massive Darkness was the only other Hardcore progress, as we moved towards the end of the Crystal and Lava campaign. Next step will be to replay some of the older quests with new monster/hero set-ups. In what may have been a slightly foolish move on my part, I’ve been concentrating on painting the core box – i.e. the stuff we’ve already played once, so any mixing and matching is going to lead to a slightly strange painted/unpainted contrast between the different elements.

I’ve still got a little way to go on this, and progress is now dwarfed by sessions on the already-completed games, which don’t count towards the total. 89 down, 11 to go.

 

Zombies!

Zombicide Green Horde will be getting its own full Kickstarter retrospective. For now, I’ll just say that this arrived, and it was truly impressive in scope: 2 big-box expansions, a “horde box” (all the KS exclusives) that was actually a bit bigger than the ‘big box’ expansions, as well as 2 small-box expansions, and a few add-on odds-and-ends.

GH-KS
Everything inside the red box arrived in June

In all honesty, it was pretty overwhelming. We only finished playing through the core-box the day before all this arrived, so things were fairly open in terms of where to go next: some bits I intended to mix with Black Plague before Green Horde, so these went straight to the painting table, as I didn’t want to break the immersion.

Right now we’ve got an (unpainted) Stranger Things party playing through the Green Horde scenarios, with some Tainted Zombies and a Gorgomination thrown in, and I’m gearing up for a Superhero assault on Black Plague, augmented with Ratz (together with their king), Fatty Bursters and maybe even some Spectral Walkers thrown in.

 

 

Shadows Growing Longer

The more observant among you might remember Shadows of Brimstone as a game I’ve mentioned a few times for being a long-standing “shortfall” game. It might seem a bit foolish in that context to be adding to it.

However, June was the point where this game hit break-even after a few fun sessions (we very nearly died in the second, but lived to tell the tale).

Shadows-FrontierI think that there are a couple of things which have been holding Shadows back – keeping it as a “good” but never-quite-as-good-as-I-hoped game. One is the bookkeeping: there is A LOT of information/abilities to keep track of, and the aesthetically-pleasing character sheets I’d downloaded made too much of that information too hard to find – treating it more like an RPG (which is probably a fair comparison in terms of character development/customisation) and writing a more plain-text tracking sheet made the game run a lot smoother.

The Second issue is lack of enemy variety: all 4 basic enemies in the core box need to be approached in fairly similar ways. I grabbed the Frontier Town box because it added some enemies who could make ranged attacks, as this will alter the overall feel of combat (it also comes with a more developed town phase, different types of towns, and 5 new scenarios). I’m also looking to add at least one more enemy, so that I can start to create a bit of a thematic distinction between the various different locations, but I’m also being mindful that I need to avoid getting too carried away.

 

The New (ish)

KingdominoOne of the new (to me) games I picked up at Expo was Kingdomino which, as the name might suggest, is a game where you use domino-like tiles to build up your Kingdom. You draft tiles each round, and are looking to score the most points by clustering squares of the same terrain together and – crucially – including bits of terrain with crowns in.

At the end of the game (about 10-15 minutes), you score each area: C x S, where S is the number of adjacent squares of a terrain type, and C is the number of Crowns in that area. You can also (optionally) award bonus points for having a perfect 5×5 grid, or for having your starting tile dead-centre in your completed kingdom.

The game is about a year or so old, and it won a special Critics Prize in the Spiele des Jahres. It’s already reached the top 200 on Board Game Geek, which feels like a real achievement, given how strongly the rankings tend to favour longer/heavier games.

I really enjoyed our early games of this – it felt a bit like a Carcassonne-lite, offering some of the same experience, but in a much shorter time-frame. Sadly, my wife wasn’t such a big fan: spatial awareness isn’t her strongest suit, and she lost the first few games we played. Need to try this with a bigger group (i.e. 3 or 4, it doesn’t go massive).

 

What got Played

Overall, June was very Fantasy-heavy, 31% of time, and 40% of sessions. Lovecraft was an even 27% in both measures, and Zombies in third. Shadows of Brimstone made Weird West a notable 9% by time, whilst Abstract pushed itself up to 7% thanks to a few sessions of Scrabble (AKA my parents came to visit…) Within Fantasy, the resurgence of Lord of the Rings made Middle Earth a big category, although “generic” was still dominant.

Mechanically things were a bit clearer, with Completing the Quest and Solving the Mystery accounting for 2/3 of all we did.

 

News

Heroes-TerrinothI’ve commented, semi-seriously in the past about the likelihood of seeing a Terrinoth LCG, as FFG lose external licences like Warhammer and Netrunner and try to push more and more games in their in-house universe. 1 week into June 2018, they announced Heroes of Terrinoth, a “cooperative Adventure Card Game” set in the same universe as Descent, Runebound, Runewars and the like. A quick bit of searching confirmed that this was more-or-less a re-skin of the highly regarded (although never played by me) Warhammer Quest.

Runewars is yet to see any play this year, with most local opponents having moved on to Shadespire (I’ll probably sell it once I’ve finished painting it all up), and I also got rid of Rune Age, as it always felt a bit lacklustre. Having only managed a single game of Runebound having something new (and hopefully a bit shorter) in this setting definitely sounds appealing.

 

Numbers

The overall financial picture has been looking steadily better for a while – everything except Apocrypha is into the positive columns when measured by player-count, and the 2016-only section also looks fine. There are still a few historic titles which have shortfalls, but most of these feel under control and are heading in the right direction. Dixit and Shadows of Brimstone both disappeared from the shortfall sheet this month.

9th WorldApocrypha is getting a bit left behind, and I’m not expecting great movement there, at least until the expansions arrive, probably sometime in the autumn. It’s also still well within the realms of possibility that I’ll decide to sell this on and, whilst I’m sure I’ll end up taking a hit compared to what I paid, I should still be able to get at least the £35 I’d need to wipe it off of the shortfall tab…

The retail release of 9th World improved the overall cost-value of my Kickstarters (along with the fact that I eventually decided against adding the deluxe components for The City of Kings), but now that the game itself has arrived, it needs playing a fair amount to make good on the spend. Early mutterings aren’t great, but I’ve yet to try it myself. Overall, Kickstarter is looking pretty healthy – there are still shortfalls on plenty of games, but it’s mostly the undelivered ones, with all the things I’m actually playing moving in the right direction.

 

Final thoughts

What will July hold? I’m broadly optimistic of getting in as a very late backer on 7th Continent, and will be keeping a close eye on CMON’s Death May Die, due on Kickstarter on 10/7. I’m trying to have less of a reviewing backlog, so will be doing my best to blast through the rest of June’s new arrivals before picking up anything much else.

Calling it a Day

Learning to Let Go

I own a lot of games, and a lot of those games have expansions, re-implementations, or otherwise compatible products. Today I want to think a bit about some of the big games collections I own, and when is the time to stop adding to them.

 

Too slow to stop

The undisputed waning giant of our gaming table is Pathfinder ACG. Playtime has plummeted from 265 games in 2015 to 81 in 2016, and a mere 22 for 2017. It hasn’t hit the table at all since last July.

Class Decks
It turns out that a box of barely-used Class Decks doesn’t make for an especially interesting photograph.

Back in the period where this was getting played all the time, we bought everything that was going. 3 (and a bit) complete adventure paths, all the class-decks they could throw at us, and even some promos off of the secondary market.

Several of the class decks though, never really got that much play –or else they did, but most of the cards were just duplicates of things we had. A lot of the newer class decks look much more varied and interesting, but having shelled out on the earlier, unused, stuff it’s hard to justify spending any more.

I like to support the FLGS where I can, but 1.) they’re often not as cheap as the online retailers, and 2.) they tend to struggle to get stock for things that aren’t brand-new, unless it’s something that’s shifting in massive volumes. The way around both of these issues is to pre-order (they offer a 10% pre-order discount), but when you have a standing pre-order for anything new in a particular product line, it’s easy to just drift into buying new stuff.

I recently sold one adventure path (Wrath of the Righteous). It was a massive faff, and it won’t have got me anywhere near my money back, but it freed up a bit of space and a bit of cash. With hindsight, I should definitely have stopped getting Pathfinder stuff earlier than I did.

 

 

The Stuff of Legends

Legendary CollectionAnother game which feels very big, and sometimes off-balance these days, is (to give it its proper name) “Legendary: A Marvel deck-building game“. With 2 base sets (normal and villains), 5 big-box expansions (Dark City, Secret Wars 1, Secret Wars 2, Civil War, X-Men) and a similar number of small-box expansions (Guardians of the Galaxy, Captain America, Paint the Town Red, Deadpool, Fear Itself) I have  A LOT of cards for this by now.

At its heart Legendary is still a great game – we play it reasonably often and have a lot of fun. However, the multiplication of keywords means you’re often left fumbling for a rules reference sheet, you will find Mastermind/Villain/Scheme synergies which don’t give the players a chance, and a lot of the special content ends up not getting used (I can’t remember the last time I used a Horror, a Pet-Sidekick, or an Ambition).

I was fortunate enough that I didn’t pay for either the (slightly disappointing) Deadpool, or the (excellent) X-Men boxes, and I started skipping new expansions a year or so ago: my Legendary collection is ‘missing’ the Noir, Spider-Man Homecoming, Champions and Fantastic 4 expansions. However much I enjoy the game, I’m not intending to pick those up any time soon and, unless the upcoming Hulk big-box appears to review, I can’t imagine even considering it for long.

 

Stretching things out

For a game like Legendary, whilst the set-up and keeping track of things can get quite Byzantine, the actual game experience remains broadly the same.

For other games, each new expansion stretches the basic experience.

Carcassonne Excluded
Carcassonne components I own but don’t use

Recently, I dusted off my copy of Carcassonne to play with a visiting relative. Like many people, Carcassonne was one of the first games we encountered when discovering modern board-gaming (alongside Ticket to Ride and Settlers of Catan). We liked it. We bought a version that had ‘The River’ included. Then we bought The River 2. And Inns and Cathedrals. And Builders and Traders. And Mayor and Abbey. AND the Princess and the Dragon. For a game listed on BGG as 30-45 minutes, you were now looking at a good hour for this sprawling mess of a game as you waded through the million tiles, and countless additional rules.

I’ve long since taken out all the Mayor and Abbey and Princess and Dragon content (don’t have the boxes, so can’t really sell them on). For the recent game we stripped out some of the extra rules (Inns, Cathedrals, Traders), whilst leaving in other bits (giant meeple, builder, extra tiles), and only used a partial set of River stuff. The overall experience was fun, and a good reminder of why Carcassonne was such a successful game in the first place.

Still, it’s interesting to think that (for us at least) whilst 1 or 2 expansions made the game better, too many made it noticeably worse.

If you played a lot of Carcassonne, I guess you could vary which expansions you used – keep it at no more than 2, but swap them around. For us, this is in 1 or 2 games a year territory these days (like most 1v1 games with my wife where I win too consistently for it to be fun any more often), and we’re not likely to do that much swapping things around.

 

Just Right

Despite the stories above, I don’t want to suggest that bloat and confusion are the inevitable consequence of prolonged expansion-buying.

Runebound Collection Runebound (3rd edition) is a fairly new game for us – got it in 2017, and played it 10 times, which is perfectly respectable for a 2-hour game. I have 2 expansions for it, the small-box Caught in a Web, and the larger Unbreakable Bonds. (Unbreakable Bonds is particularly good, as it adds a fully co-op mode). There are other expansions out there, but right now I’m feeling pretty happy with the set-up we have – around 8 Heroes, 5 quests (all of which can be played fully cooperatively), and options to mix up the skill decks. For this game, knowing where to stop seems key.

Interestingly, despite talking about it in relatively glowing terms, I realised as I was re-working this draft, that Runebound hasn’t actually been played yet this year. Clearly something needs to happen soon.

 

Stretching? Completion?

Eldritch Horror was a new acquisition late in 2016, traded for something else that no longer got played. We enjoyed it, and the inevitable tide of expansions followed. The first expansion is barely even an expansion – it’s more a fix for things that should have been in the original game: 6 mysteries per Ancient One rather than 4 (you use three per game), cards to pad out the encounter decks, and tokens to implement the Focus mechanic (taking an action to get a token you can use for a re-roll later).

Since then I’ve picked up 3 expansions from Games Quest to review, and a few others here and there – a birthday present, a bit of store credit from a mystery review, a Christmas present.

Eldritch SideboardsBy now, the game is pretty weighty. It easily fills 2 large boxes, with the character standees in a separate small box. We have enough Ancient Ones that you’re unlikely to remember running into any of them more than twice, and 22 of the 55 investigators we own have only taken part in a single game. There are also 3 side-boards which appear fairly rarely indeed.

Despite all that, the expansions feel like sensible purchases, if not necessarily ‘good value’ had I paid cash for them all – we’ll still regularly get through over half of a location encounter deck in a single game, and the Rumour cards have a big enough impact that you don’t want to see them coming up too often. It’s understandable that some investigators are more fun, and get played more often, than others (Diana and Lily have featured in 13 games each), and the wealth of content gives us good future-proofing.

New Investigators
The Mansions 2nd edition characters (back row) have been eclipsed by (L-R) Calvin, Sefina and Daniela

That said, I think this would be a good point for FFG to call it a day – already some of the small card-decks are near-impossible to shuffle, and finding specific cards is a real trial. We’ve not only exhausted all of FFG’s established investigator line-up, but Eldritch now has 3 characters who weren’t around for last year’s Investigators of Arkham Horror book, (Sefina Rousseau, Calvin Wright, Daniela Reyes) and Daniela currently appears in Eldritch only, and no other game. The fact that the most recent expansion contained Personal Missions for all the investigators released to date would make backwards compatibility really clunky for any future expansions.

Omens-Pharaoh-Dice-Game-BoxWhilst I think Eldritch feels like it has reached a natural end, I do need to note that Elder Sign also looks like it has essentially exhausted the investigator pool (the most recent expansion featured 6 of the 7 investigators who just joined Eldritch Horror, and Daniela is now the only one not available.)

Will FFG really discontinue 2 profitable games at once? They do seem to be getting a lot of mileage out of Terrinoth and Rokugan (and, of course Star Wars and Lord of the Rings remain popular), but the Arkham line still looks like it’s a big part of their business.

I don’t want to sound like the dog in the manger here, and I can see people wondering why I couldn’t just stop buying things, and be happy for FFG to keep producing them for others. I guess that there are a number of reasons: for one thing, if they make more expansions, the chances are there that there will still be some elements that are good, along with bad elements, or aspects that make the game feel bloated – knowing when to call time in that environment is tricky.

More than that, if the designers are continuing to work in a cluttered, cramped design space, it suggests that they aren’t occupied elsewhere, making something new and better – I’m not 100% where there’s a space right now for another Arkham game, but I’d love to see FFG turn their energies to something like Middle Earth Quest 2nd Edition – app-supported and fully co-op.

 

Descending into madness

Some games I haven’t started expanding, but I know my own past well enough to be aware that if I do, I need to go in with a plan to avoid overspending and bloating the collection.

NerekhallDescent: Journeys in the Dark (2nd Edition) is a good example of this – I think that a little more content would really make it shine. Too much would be a monster not worthy of the hours.

Ideally, I’d get Shadows of Nerekhall, but it’s been out of stock/print for a fair while. Instead then, I’ve ended up not getting anything else for the game and, to be honest, it hasn’t been played in months.

Part of me wonders whether our slightly underwhelming experience with this game (it’s “fine” but not much beyond that), is due to a lack of variety that an expansion would fix. Equally, it could just be the sheer range of alternative games that this needs to fight for table-time. Mansions of Madness does app-driven better, Massive Darkness is lighter and quicker. Gloomhaven is probably better for tactical dungeon-crawling, and Shadows of Brimstone does long-term character progression and customisation.

The recent announcement of a Terrinoth card game has revived my interest in Descent and Runebound, so maybe these will get played again soon, but there’s no guarantee.

 

Chicken or the Egg?

Firefly expanded
(Expansion to your dining table not included)

I’ve talked in the past (although not for a while) about Firefly – a game dripping with theme that somehow never quite feels compelling (and takes a really long time) – we don’t really own any expansions (just a small deck of cards) and I often wonder whether it should be moved on (it hasn’t be played since summer 2016) or expanded – the Pirates and Bounty Hunters expansion in particular gets good reviews for increasing the player interaction (others expand the game-length, sorry, board, or add in new ships and crew). Is this not worth spending money on because it doesn’t get played? Or not getting played because it needs expansions?

Right now I’m reluctant to throw good money after bad, my wife is too fond of the Firefly theme to get rid of it, and nobody’s actually that keen to play it (it’s not great with only 2 players, and mustering the time with a bigger group is challenging.) that basically leads us to an impasse, which is probably the real reason it’s still sat there.

 

Having looked at games of various sizes, I haven’t yet talked about the one game that prompted me to start writing this article! However, as we’re already at 2000 words, I think it’s time to split off into a separate place.

I’ll be back shortly with a retrospective on the biggest game in my collection. Lord of the Rings the card game. For now though, just a few general thoughts:

 

Closing thoughts

I think it’s definitely going to be the case going forward that more and more games have more and more bits available, and that the scope to expand them is far greater that the time or money I have available.

I’m still a big fan of the concept of board game expansions – done well they can really enhance a game, and make for a much better gameplay experience, either in terms of fixing things for an individual session, or simply making sure that today’s game doesn’t feel like a re-hash of yesterday’s. The challenge is to work out when an expansion offers real value for money, and when it just becomes an unnecessary money-sink.

 

Back to Basics: May 2018

I went into May expecting a slightly less game-intensive month as we caught up on a few other odds and ends. In the end, it turned out to be one of the most game-heavy months of the year so far, with lots of things getting played, including lots of my 10×10 challenge titles, and a few old classics.

 

10 of 10

H-Index for 2018 is up to 9, although I actually have 11 games on 8 or more, as well as a few 6s and 7s, so hitting that 10 of 10 threshold feels very near.

10of10-2018-MayFor the Hardcore project, things came on in leaps and bounds in May. First up I wrapped up Marvel Legendary, with a couple of Thanos/Infinity Gem-themed games ahead of our trip to see Infinity War.

Lord of the Rings had been lagging behind, but got a bit of a revival this month as we started off a 2-player mini-campaign. We’ve had several good, fleshed-out games, where things actually seemed reasonably balanced (Easy Mode). I’ve now hit 10 sessions for the year, but am still looking to take it further. Gloomhaven is up to 9/10 plays, and I’m starting to feel like we’re really getting into the narrative of this one.

TrollMassive Darkness, returning to our table as it’s now largely painted, and Aeon’s End, also got a couple of sessions each, to keep things ticking along.

Mansions of Madness is definitely the ‘Hardcore’ title that’s lagging the farthest behind, and was only played once in May. I’ve been waiting on an expansion for this for a while, but there have been various stock-issues delaying things, so I should really just get it played some more with the existing content.  Overall a highly respectable 16 sessions logged (and 22 on the already-complete games), leaves me on 87/100 overall.

 

New

Dungeon Alliance
The early buzz around this one was good, but I’m struggling to muster much enthusiasm (no doubt partly due to lacklustre art)

There was very little that was brand new for May. Dungeon Alliance finally made it off of the “to-play” pile, but only once, and everything else was a return, whether it be from April (The City of Kings, Firefly Adventures), from many years ago (Scrabble, Boggle), or somewhere in between (Zombicide, Legendary). Most of the new/upcoming review content is expansions rather than standalone games, so nothing much to report there.

The only real exception to this was I Am the 4th Wall, a Kickstarter (p)review game. This was one I ended up doing for a friend as a bit of a rush job, and had to return shortly after I started playing it.

I-am-4th-Wall-Card-Game-BoxIt was my first time reviewing a prototype, and it was an interesting experience, trying to work out what was poor templating/editing, and what was just an inevitable feature of an early draft.

The game itself is a Lovecraftian horror set in ‘50s suburban America – The Scientist and the Professor meet the Roller-Skating Waitress and the Bubble-gum-Chewing Photographer. It’s quite quirky, easy to pick up, and does a few clever things, although I found the randomness a bit excessive. Having already had to return it to its owner, it’s hard to say whether it would have had any long-term staying power in our collection, but it was certainly a fun little diversion.

 

What got Played?

City of KingsMay definitely felt like a Greatest Hits month, with Lovecraft, Zombies and Fantasy dominating the landscape, and accounting for over 70% of games simple survival. Saving the World, Solving the Mystery, and just plain “Winning” also featured

Within Fantasy, the City of Kings setting (I’m currently going for “Ageless Realms” which is technically only a sub-area, but the creator isn’t sharing the official name yet) was our main location by time, but sessions were dominated by a resurgent Middle Earth.

 

Numbers

May saw my first clear-out since January, moving on a few unwanted review games, and a couple of older titles that just don’t get much play anymore. It was enough to see me briefly in profit for the year, before I bit the bullet and finally pledged for Folklore (the day before the pledge manager closed).

My shortfall stats took a dip at the start of the month – The City of Kings has now been owned long enough to count towards the “Current Year” totals, and a new Lord of the Rings pack arrived, pushing that temporarily into the red. Fortunately, these were both wiped out by the end of the month, and with a bit more progress on Shadows of Brimstone (if I factored painting time in, it would already be looking very healthy) meant that things were improved on where the month started, albeit not by as much as April’s jump.

Kickstarter wise, Aeon’s End and Zombicide Green Horde joined Massive Darkness as the second and third games to be showing positive value in all columns (more cost-effective than waiting for retail and gameplay value greater than spend).

Despite all this, the overall picture for Kickstarter is worse than at the end of April, simply due to the amount spent on new projects (Folklore, The City of Kings). I still need to make up my mind about Zombicide Invader, which could well be another huge chunk gone.

Despite all that, if I look just at games where delivery has begun, I’m only sitting at £4.49 per hour and for games which have arrived completely (i.e. not waiting for expansions to drop), it’s a mere £3.99 per hour. Both of these are well inside the £5/h maximum, and I’m definitely happy with the state of things. I think I’m going to use these measures more in the future, as they probably give a better long-term picture than the “overall” £6.40 per hour which includes games not due until 2019…

 

Next?

June is of course the month of the UK Games Expo, which may even get a write-up of its own (and should certainly bring some new games, or at least bits for them). It’s likely that June will be when I wrap up the non -hardcore 10×10 challenge, although 6 games of Mansions of Madness in a month is likely to be pushing it. Whatever fun & games I come up with, I’ll be back in a month to report.

Kicking things down the road

Delays happen with Kickstarters. Anyone who has backed more than one or two knows that.

That said, there are delays, and then there are delays.

If I look back at projects I’ve backed over the last 3-4 years, there’s a very broad spectrum.

GreenHorde At one extreme, I received the Green Horde core box 7 months earlier than the original estimate.

More commonly, I’ve received things with slight delays – Aeon’s End War Eternal and Gloomhaven were each about 2 months late, Massive Darkness was 4.

I think that mentally the cut-off point where I start getting annoyed, is about 6 months.

You can probably guess then how I’m feeling as I look at 3 of the longest outstanding projects I’m waiting on.

ApocryphaApocrypha Kickstarted in May 2015, with an estimated time of 12 months. The base game arrived in Septebmer 2017 – 17 months late. To add insult to injury, the expansions are currently sitting at 2 years late, and have (apparently) only recently been sent to the printers: who knows when we’ll actually see them.

The 9th World, another Lone Shark project is 18 months late. According to the most recent emails, these have (probably) left Shanghai not that long ago, so we might see them in the next month or two.

Far more recently, it was the end of 2016 when I Kickstarted Legends Untold – currently it’s only 10 months behind schedule, but there’s nothing to suggest that it’ll be arriving any time soon. ‘Autumn’ seems the best bet, by which time it will definitely be over a year late.

 

Legends Untold

LegendsI’m going to start by looking a bit more closely at Legends Untold because, in fairness, I can see some reasonable factors behind a lot of the delays here. As far as I can tell, these were guys who hadn’t worked in the Board Game industry before, and it was a small-scale Kickstarter that exploded, far beyond what they’d anticipated. From a £12,000 goal, they raised £129,000!!

Obviously that had an impact on how the campaign developed. The various stretch-goals (linen-finish cards, bigger cards etc) were very quickly swept aside, and they made some BIG decisions, most notably that this initial Kickstarter would be for not just 1 game but 2!!

Legends-Untold-StructureLegends Untold has always billed itself as “Deep as an RPG, Quick as a Card Game” which is quite a claim given how many people have tried (with varying levels of success) to deliver the fabled RPG-in-a-Box over recent years. Theirs was certainly not a narrow vision, and the game they promised us was to have been just the first in a vast network of games, all of which could be woven together into some grand tapestry – Novice Boxes would take you from the beginning up to “Apprentice” level, at which point you would select an “Apprentice Box” to take you up to “Journeyman” level. By the time you had completed one of these, you would not only have reached the great city of this new Fantasy World, but thoroughly explored it, and be ready to go venturing into wilds as a “Skilled” Adventurer.

Legends-BothAll very grand, but first thing’s first – this campaign was just for the first of the Novice Boxes, The Caves. Or at least it would have been, had they not raised more than 4x their original funding goal within the first 6 days of the campaign. At that point, they decided that the campaign would be for 2 mutually compatible Novice Boxes: The Caves, and The Sewers. Similar in overall structure, this second box would feature different heroes, different enemies, and different environments, but with a reassurance that the content from the various different boxes could be freely mixed-and-matched.

Personally, I felt at the time that they should have stuck to their original plan – balancing a new game is a lot of work, and balancing 2 mutually compatible games I’d wager, is more than just twice the work.

At the time, I was also a bit miffed that they seemed to be avoiding the question of whether or not these sets would be available at retail later. Personally I would have preferred to just get the one game (around £20) and see whether I liked it, rather than committing to 2 for £40ish, but they got me with some good old FOMO.

In reflection, the second was probably an unfair complaint – as already noted, Inspiring Games (the people behind Legends Untold) seem to be very new to the business, and time-and-time-again, to have been caught out by the sheer length of time it takes for stuff to get done. The most recent update talked about how they would like to go to retail with the game, but are unsure whether a distributer would be willing to work with them, given that they only have a single title to offer. When they didn’t give an answer 17 months ago, it seems a pretty safe bet that they genuinely didn’t have one.

Mor Nadar
They have already named the world, which will make this game a lot easier to track and categorise!

There have been a lot of KS updates for Legends Untold – generally the communication has been reasonable on the project, although not amazing. It certainly looks like the game has changed a lot. This sort of thing is inevitable in this type of Kickstarter project, but it does make it very difficult for me to muster any real enthusiasm about the game right now. I know that these guys have a really expansive vision for where this line of games will end up – I just hope that they haven’t tried to run before they can walk. Hopefully the game will arrive when things are quiet enough for me to give it the table-time it needs to prove its worth, and above all, I hope that the gameplay lives up to the hype.

 

Beware of Sharks!

lone-shark-gamesI have a lot less sympathy for the guys at Lone Shark games. The lead designer of their projects is Mike Selinker, the man behind the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game, Betrayal at the House on the Hill, Lords of Vegas, and the 2004 re-implementation of Axis and Allies. Also involved, aside from a whole host of Pathfinder ACG folk, were Paul Peterson (Smash Up) and Liz Spain (I’m just glad I never backed Incredible Expeditions…)

The point is that, even if it was their first (and second) self-published game, a lot of these people were industry insiders, and they really should have known better. The communication on both projects has tended to be poor, the claims disingenuous. In the various updates which have trickled out to us, they spend a lot of time blowing their own trumpet – “you’ll be glad we took our time, because this game is really worth the wait” or similar, and a lot of time talking about just how clever this or that game feature is.

These campaigns have been going on so long that memories start to fade, and details blur into legend or myth. I had a distinct recollection of reading a comment from the designers on one of the Lone Shark games about how they’d been working hard to make the game the most intricate thing they possibly could. Not the best, or the most enjoyable, the most intricate. Weirdly, when I went back to find the source/ get the exact quote, I couldn’t find it and, in the interests of fairness, I should say that the quote could well be simply the product of my own embittered imagination.

Whether they said it or not, it’s definitely a statement that fits the vibe of the campaign. It might never have been plausible to get things delivered within the original time-period they estimated, but I have to think that the delays might have been kept to a year if they hadn’t spent so much time getting distracted by pointless stuff.

Ninth-Box Based on a recent update (and this one definitely really did happen), it looks like there were several months of delays on Ninth World, which could be boiled down to “we wanted a really fancy box, but that created loads of problems with the image being printed the wrong size and/or upside down!” They sounded especially pleased with themselves when they announced that they’d finished applying the spot gloss. Don’t get me started on spot gloss…

 

 

Good game?

It’s also important to factor in how good a game actually is – our love for Zombicide means that we’re probably going to be pretty happy with any project that gives us loads more Zombicide stuff.

By contrast, Apocrypha (at least in Core Box form) was a game that (for us) wasn’t nearly as good as it should have been, or nearly as good as it thought it was. The abysmal rulebook, the convoluted set-up, the lack of driving force to the narrative which turned “non-linear” into “why bother?” I’m hoping that the expansions will help, along with the FAQs and errata that are so sorely needed (I believe there’s one “Structure” that they’ve decided to replace altogether), but realistically, I’m resigned to the likelihood of selling this, probably at a significant loss.

If The Ninth World turns out to be amazing, then I’ll probably get over the rubbish campaign (at least a bit), but if it’s another dud, then that over-elaborate box with its unnecessary spot gloss is just going to annoy me.

 

Where next?

It’s important, of course, to realise that no 2 projects on Kickstarter are the same. My Massive Darkness experience was brilliant, and my Green Horde experience has been good so far, with nothing (at present) to suggest that there will be a problem with wave 2. That said, I know that there were a lot of complaints about Black Plague (which I acquired retail/via secondary market) from backers who received their games after retailers did.

The next project always has the potential to be the next nightmare.

Even so, experience matters. And my experience tells me that, if I back a CMON game on KS, I’m going to get great value for money, a lot of cool minis, probably a decent game, and a fairly timely delivery.

InvaderBy contrast, going to a small independent, the types of people who Kickstarter feels like it should be for – well, that’s just pot luck. I might get some first-timers like the guys behind Legends Untold who underestimate the challenges and take a bit longer – I can live with that. Or I might get another project like one of the nightmares from Lone Shark – delayed beyond the stretch of plausibility, poor communication, muddled priorities.

I’ve increasingly been backing things for a single Pound or Dollar, allowing me to put off a decision until later. As I try to make the decisions to actually get the game or not, all the thoughts in this article come whirling back round.

I’ve recently upped my single-dollar pledge to something more substantial on KS projects from a couple of smaller creators – but in both instances these were re-print/expansions campaigns: a lot of the risk is reduced when you can see that they’ve already done this once, and managed it successfully.

In some respects, Zombicide Invader is (for me) the least necessary of the $1 projects – whilst the modifications made for the space version look cool, it’s still Zombicide, and I own A LOT of Zombicide. Should I avoid this in favour of more innovative independent projects, and take a gamble financially? Or do I just double-down on what I know will work out as a good deal financially, and not risk being landed with a White Elephant?

Whatever I end up doing, I’m sure you’ll be able to read about it on here…

No Fools Here: April’s Games

April was a pretty good month for gaming all-told.

I spent part of the Easter weekend away at a show, leading to some new games getting played, made another impulse purchase, and got some much-needed run-outs for a few titles that had been gathering dust.

GreenExtrasZombicide remains one of the biggest occupiers of my dining table. We got a bit further through the Green Horde core box in April, although we also died quite a lot – Although the extra damage from Orcs is nasty, it’s been the double-activations that come from running out of Runners that keep doing for us. Those extra 4 runners that come with the second wave suddenly look like they’ll make a much bigger difference than anticipated. We also had a few Black Plague games with friends, after a slight lull in recent months whilst the attention was focused on Green Horde.

The City of Kings was March’s unexpected buy, and early impressions from April were really good – there were definitely some things that took a while to get my head around (1st play-through, I think I got at least half of the rules wrong), but the overall feel is great, and it feels thematically similar to a lot of old favourites, whilst definitely offering something completely new.

EscapeDarkEscape the Dark Castle was a game I hadn’t planned on buying, but picked up on a bit of a whim, following a nail-biting session with the designer of the game. It’s been played a few times since I got back home with it, and it’s definitely fun, although the length/weight are making me start to doubt whether it was really worth the £49 price tag for base game + expansion. Fortunately, it was done with store credit rather than actual money, so not too big a worry.

 

10 of 10

10of10-2018-AprAs I mentioned back in March, 4 of the 10 on the Hardcore list are now all wrapped-up, meaning that I’m only looking at 6 specific title for any further progress on this. (14 sessions altogether for Zombicide, Arkham and Elder Sign, none of them impacting the 10×10 total).

Ned-Haven-May18The big mover for April was Gloomhaven, which got dusted off after too long sitting idle. It turned out that we needed to refresh our memories on a remarkable number of rules, but I really enjoyed our plays of this, getting 4 games in in 2 days (on each occasion we cleared the scenario at the second attempt), and coming back out for another session a week later. I also had single games of Mansions of Madness, Massive Darkness and Marvel Legacy. Currently sitting at 71/100 for the overall challenge, things are definitely moving in the right direction.

DragonfireBoxFor the non-hardcore version of the challenge, Dragonfire was the 6th game of the year to reach 10 plays. Currently I’m at an H-Index of 7 – Arkham LCG, Zombicide, Pandemic Legacy, Hogwarts Battle, Elder Sign, Dragonfire and Marvel Legendary. With 7 more games on 5 or 6 plays, I’m hoping it won’t be too long before this number goes up again. (Of course, if I’d stuck with my original plan of counting Seasons 1 and 2 of Pandemic Legacy as 2 separate games, and Zombicide Black Plague and Zombicide Green Horde as 2 separate games, then I’d be nearly there…)

 

In Review

RisingSunThere were a few review titles that made it to the table in April for the first time. Definite mention needed for Rising Sun – this game looks absolutely fantastic, and I was very tempted to back it on Kickstarter for the miniatures alone, although I eventually decided not to, as I knew it would be a hard game to get played. It’s a 3-player minimum 2-3 hour epic, which involves making and breaking alliances, and battles aplenty. We’re not especially big on (what I now learn are called) “Dudes on a Map” games in our house, and I doubt that I’ll be getting my wife to play this any time soon, but I think this is a really good game, with loads going on, and many layers of subtleties to the gameplay – definitely one which rewards repeat plays. My currently dilemma is “Keep and Paint” or “Sell it now, rather than letting it gather dust.”

Firefly-Adventures-BoxLike many Geeks, I am a die-hard Firefly fan, but have always struggled to find a Firefly game that really hit the spot – Firefly the Board Game is too long, and not especially interactive, whilst Firefly Legendary is painfully ugly, and feels a bit clunky. Would Firefly Adventures: Browncoats and Brigands finally be the game we were looking for? As someone who typically picks up a new game or two to review every month, I like to think that I’m fairly good at grasping how new games work, but the first time I got this out to run-through, I couldn’t even figure out what I was supposed to be doing – the rulebook is some way beyond incoherent, and the scenario set-up/objectives tended to be unclear and contradictory: Further investigation needed, but optimism fading fast. Beyond that, I still have the latest Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective box sitting un-played, and Dungeon Alliance is still only at the components-punched-and-bagged stage.

 

What got played?

Not all that surprisingly, Fantasy was the maintstay of April – well over a third of sessions, and 32% of time. Zombies (25% time, 20% sessions) and Lovecraft (16% time, 13% sessions) were the other big chunks, with nothing else making it into double figures. As tends to be the way, that reflected mechanically, with Completing the Quest and plain-old Survival” our key concerns.

 

Money

The overall Kickstarter landscape is definitely moving in the right direction: There was table-time for Green Horde and Gloomhaven, along with some early pre-order prices for Green Horde, which suggest (as expected) that backing this will be another win money-wise. Kickstarter is never likely to match the standards of games I have in hand, simply because there’s always such a lag between spending the money and being able to play the games, but the current £/Hour rate has dropped below £7, which seems reasonable all things considered. Admittedly, that figure will rise again very quickly if I back any of the number of other project looming into view (see below)

ShadowsPainted
Also been having fun painting these – if I factored in painting time, it’d definitely be classed as good value

For shortfalls more generally, Shadows of Brimstone and Gloomhaven both managed a good few hours of play, bringing the deficits as low as they have been all year. As something brand new, I haven’t started counting The City of Kings yet, but it’s making good progress and will hopefully be nothing worse than a short blip on the Shortfall track.

I spent less than £10 on games in April, which is always nice, but didn’t sell anything either – I’m working up to a moderate-sized cull at some point in the near future, which includes a few ex-review games that are big enough and in good-enough condition to hopefully raise more than a few pennies.

 

Kicks

There were quite a few Kickstarter projects that caught my eye in April.

I had a bit to say here about the Zombicide: Invader Kickstarter, but so much ended up happening (and there are bound to be further twists in the last 48 hours) that I’ve decided to leave this for my next Kickstarter round-up: for now I’ll just say that this is a campaign that’s definitely caught my eye, and which had more than its share of surprises.

City of KingsA campaign that I’ve been more convinced by from day 1, was The City of Kings. It’s a bit of a mish-mash, being simultaneously a re-print of the existing game, offering new expansions / upgrades for the retail edition (which is what I have), and a brand-new game set in the same universe.

Even though I’ve only just started to scratch the surface of this game, I’m really keen to get the mechanical add-ons, and for only £10, having miniatures to paint for the heroes is very tempting. Beyond that, it gets complicated with fancy offerings like plastic “anti-knock” trays (there’s a lot of info in this game to try to recover if you do accidentally clobber the character sheet mid-session) and box organisers (again, lots of bits, although they don’t take up that much space unless you upgrade to wooden resources), all of which push the price for an already sizeable game sky-high. Lastly, the gorgeous art/lore book would add nothing to game-play, but kept looking at me in a beguiling fashion. In a departure from my usual behaviour, I backed this for £1 on day one: it allowed me to get involved with the comments and, with no financial stretch-goals on offer during the campaign, there was no urgency to make a decision before the pledge manager.

The pledge manager for Folklore will be closing soon, so I need to make a final decision and take the plunge. I think that enough other things have caught my interest that I’ve ruled out an all-in pledge for minis and the like (although the ghosts are so pretty…), but I’m still tempted by the base game and possibly the main expansion.

Ultimately, I think that early May will be when I need to finally commit on these games. For now though, there’s plenty to keep me occupied.

 

Final Thoughts

All-in-all, April was pretty good – The City of Kings was a highlight in the “new” column, but it was also good to see Gloomhaven finally making its mark and old favourites continuing to tick along. Mansions of Madness will hopefully be getting a new expansion soon, so that ought to see some table-time in May. Beyond that, check back in a month!

2018: 1st Quarter Kicks

With 2018 already (somehow!?!) ¼ over, I thought it was a good time to check in on the world of Kickstarter.

Coming from Behind

Kickstarter Games
As ever, Gloomhaven just a bit too big to fit in the picture

I started the year with a hefty deficit money-wise on a large number of outstanding Kickstarter projects – lots undelivered, lots without even an RRP available. Part of that was due to ongoing delays, part simply due to where I was in the cycle of backing and receiving.

 

Since then, things have improved quite a bit – about £100 on cost value (i.e. I now know how much some more things would have cost at retail and how much I saved/lost by backing them early) and £130 or so gameplay value (i.e. just over 27 hours’ worth of play on Kickstarter games). In £/Hour terms, that’s pulled the figure down from an eye-watering £12.23 per hour to £9.96 – still a lot, but heading in the right direction.

I’ve actually only had 21 games all-told across any of the Kickstarter titles so far this year. Even allowing for it only being March, that’s still some way down on 62 last year (given that no KS game arrived before August in 2017). I’d struggle to put my finger on a single reason for this, especially as there are still plenty of KS games in my collection that I’m enthusiastic about playing and which have plenty of life left in them.

Apocrypha is still running a deficit, both in terms of play and cost. This has hit the table 1 or 2 times, so should get there eventually, and once the expansions land, that should wipe out the retail shortfall.

 

Lightbringers
Expansion heroes all nicely painted up, but I still need to get the Wandering Monsters done

Massive Darkness remains the healthiest-looking game overall, with figures comfortably in the black in all directions. We recently had this one out for the first time in a little while, making our first foray into some of the extensive expansion content – good fun, and definitely giving a sense of variety.

 

Aeon’s End continues to tick along, slowly and steadily. At the moment, this is still ever-so-slightly in the red for play value, but by less than the “vs retail” saving, meaning that it’s posting a positive total over (and only 1 session short play-wise).

Even now that things have hit retail again, Gloomhaven looks like pretty good value to a Kickstarter backer vs the retail cost. That said, play-time is looking a bit shabbier: it has been played this year, but nowhere near as much as I’d hoped/expected. This is one of the ones that really needs some serious table-time.

 

GreenHordeWave2
From the latest KS update – this picture actually includes a fair few add-ons that I’m not getting but still. Wow, that’s a lot of content!

Zombicide Green Horde arrived at the very end of January. It’s great fun, as expected, but the first few scenarios in particular are brutally hard (I’m sure it will get easier with time, as we adjust to the new style of play). At the moment, I only have the base game, and even that doesn’t have a retail release yet, meaning the numbers look especially shocking (I’m probably still a little way short of the amount of play that would justify the cost of the core box), but I’m confident that things will quickly and quite dramatically leap into the black once we get confirmed retail prices and/or wave 2 lands in the summer.

 

There is still no sign of 9th World, Legends Untold, or the Gloom of Kilforth Expansions (Kilforth wasn’t expected until the summer anyway).

 

New projects?

In terms of new projects, it was a quiet quarter – a few things caught my eye, but none sufficiently to get me to open my wallet.

AE-L Aeon’s End Legacy is the new set for Aeon’s End. It looks like another whopper, with a legacy campaign that allows you to create your own character, and a whole stack of extra marketplace cards that you can use during the campaign or in stand-alone games afterwards.

As I’ve mentioned in the past, I’m a big fan of the gameplay in Aeon’s End, but like everything else, it’s struggling for table time these days, as both my games collection and the baby keep on growing (he can now reach things on the table if they are left too near the edge!) on top of that, the whole way the Legacy campaign was handled rubbed me up the wrong way.

For one thing, lots of play-testers took to the forums to post reviews which basically all said “this is great, but I’m not going to tell you anything about how/why, because of Spoilers.” I understand (up to a point) the reluctance to give spoilers, but the end result was something that felt more like marketing than a review as it couldn’t really offer me anything more concrete than “buy it!”

On top of that, the chance to ‘create my own mage’ – which seems to be the big selling-point of the campaign – felt strange as well. Generally, the coolest characters in the game are the ones who break the standard rules – those with unique breaches being an obvious example. It seems pretty likely that in a pick-and-mix, make a character from these stickers system, options like that simply aren’t going to be available. The designers and their play-test fans were quick to assure us that there were 5000 different possible combinations, but without getting a real sense of how different they were actually going to be, I wasn’t ready to get involved.

AE-L Art
Being an Aeon’s End game, there was some dubious art involved

 

My biggest disappointment in missing out, was the stretch goal to provide dividers from the first edition game in the style of War Eternal. This was especially galling as it felt more like something missing from what I already had (AE+AE:WE) than it did a part of Legacy. I’ve put out a few feelers, and will try to pick up someone else’s un-wanted set on the secondary market for these.

As a final note, I should say that, being Aeon’s End, the art is still pretty awful, and I fully expect the card-stock to be all over the place, and at least some of it so be glossy finish.

If the opportunity to review this comes up, I’ll throw my hat into the ring, and I may even fork out eventually for the new expansion, which is just additional non-legacy market cards, but it’s not something I want to pay $80 for.

 

Folklore

FolkloreThe Pledge Manager for Folklore is still open. Everything I’ve seen suggests that this is a really good game, but I just don’t know that I have the time for it right now. If I did dive in, there’s still the question of which of the many different routes to go down – core box only because it’s cheap, or all-in, to get some of the beautiful miniatures to paint.

I backed Folklore because it looked like they couldn’t guarantee it getting a retail release. Latest forum rumblings suggest that it might get one after all, at which point picking it up from GQ is almost certainly a cheaper option (hooray for store credit!)

Oddly, I think that one of my biggest obstacles with Folklore is the fact that Rahdo never ran through it: there are other gameplay videos out there but as they’re not from vloggers I’m familiar with, it’s hard to get a real sense of the game.

 

Batman

Batman-Gotham-City-Chronicles-1
I’m pretty sure this doesn’t even include the stretch-goals. It’s a LOT of miniatures

Batman: Gotham City Chronicles was one of the big headline games of the first part of 2018. It (apparently) took the Conan engine and re-skinned it for the city of Gotham.

It’s a big game – $140 is the starting point, and it looks like it’s never going to get a non-Kickstarter release, so backing it now (or backing the inevitable reprint in a year or 2) are basically the only options aside from hoping it eventually appears on eBay.

The miniatures look really nice. Lots of iconic characters, generally really nicely sculpted.

The killer (apart from that mega price-tag) is the fact that it seems to be a purely PvP game, and I really can’t see my wife wanting to duke it out head-to-head with me. Part of me is tempted to get this one to play with Ned – assuming it delivers next year, I might even manage to get it painted over the 12 years I’d need to wait for him to reach the recommended age limit. Realistically though, that doesn’t seem sensible. Aside from anything else, I know that as a parent I need to let him make his own decisions, and it’s still too early to tell whether he’ll opt for Marvel or DC.

Harry Potter

HarryPotterHaving been pleasantly surprised by Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle, my interest was definitely piqued by the idea of a Harry Potter miniatures game.

Sadly, March saw what can, at best, be described as a debacle on the part of Knight Miniatures. Having announced an upcoming Kickstarter for a Harry Potter Adventure Game, they then released a very drab video depicting a single turn of an incredibly generic-looking skirmish game, cancelled the Kickstarter, and started taking pre-orders (for the US, UK and Spain only) for something that looked suspiciously like it was just some miniatures in a tin box, with the associated “game” rather lacking.

To add to the list of red flags, KM seem to have a pretty shaky reputation in terms of Quality Assurance and Customer Services, the miniatures were resin rather than plastic (too breakable for my liking), and frankly bizarre distribution/omission of key characters (Voldemort appears to be a pre-order bonus only, not available in an actual retail purchase), and like many people I quickly decided to pass.

HarryRonHermioneBefore I stop talking about this game, I do want to take a quick moment to look at some of the miniatures themselves. For the most part, they look straight take-offs of the film characters – Crabbe (or possibly Goyle) comes complete with a cake, and various big-screen poses are re-captured – which is fine. My main complaint though, was with the Hermione miniature. If you were looking for a contemporary female character who is most clearly defined by her brain rather than her looks, and who stands out as someone whose achievements stand up to scrutiny without needing to be bolstered by feminine charms, then Hermione Grainger is surely one of the first names you come to. The sculptor however, clearly felt differently, and decided that she needed to be depicted mid-prance, standing on one leg, with her Gryffindor scarf twirling about her like a streamer from a rhythmic gymnastics display. Compared to Harry, whose pose is dramatic, but looks combat-ready and functional, and Ron, who just looks slightly bored, this felt depressingly patronising, and provided the final nail in the coffin of interest, if another one were needed.

 

Future

I’m not anticipating vast KS expenditure in the coming months, but there is at least one project that’s caught my attention…

City of Kings

City of KingsThe City of Kings (I always seem to forget the “The”) was a game I’d been only vaguely aware of, until discovering that it wouldn’t be available to review (stock issues). Amid a mad panic about stock availability, I splashed out on a copy from an online retailer, setting up a few days of anticipation about whether it would actually arrive, or be cancelled.

The game-play videos for this looked really interesting, and seemed to position it somewhere between Folklore (see above) and Spirit Island, which was the other big co-op I’d been considering (and which is now out of stock everywhere again). That said, the retail edition was definitely missing a few things compared to the original KS edition, so the announcement of an April re-print Kickstarter which should include “just the new stuff” and “bling up my retail edition” pledge levels [not actual titles] has definitely caught my eye. I’ve played the game twice so far and really enjoyed it, but hopefully, the window before the KS closes will be sufficient for get far enough into the game to make an informed decision about whether I actually need/want to get it decked out.

 

Next

Invader
For something that is essentially a re-skin of one of my all-time favourite games, it’s amazing just how much I dislike the look of this

Lots of people have been posting online about how this feels like a mega time for Kickstarter games, but it hasn’t really felt that way to me. This is probably for the best, as my wallet really doesn’t need any more Kickstarter projects.

In terms of the next quarter, I’m not sure what else is coming. There’s a new Zombicide project coming – Zombicide Invader. Whilst outer-space Zombicide is an interesting idea, early figure prototypes look like Space Marines vs demon-creatures from The Others, so unless something major changes during the campaign, I can’t see myself bothering with this one. It’ll be interesting to see whether more Zombicide means no Massive Darkness Season 2 (don’t especially need more minis, but a rules-revision could make a good game a great one).

Arydia: The Paths we Dare to Tread is an open-world Fantasy adventure that should be coming some point this year. At this stage, virtually nothing is known, and it’s probably not going to squeeze into the 2nd quarter, but I’ll keep my eyes open.

That’s about all for today. I’ll be back in 3 months or so with another update.