An Invasion of Kicks

In April 2018 CMON unleashed another Zombicide Kickstarter. This time it was Zombicide in space or, to give it its proper name, “Zombicide Invader.”

InvaderI mentioned back in March that I wasn’t massively interested in this – although Zombicide is my most-played game, I do have quite a lot of Zombicide stuff already, and I wasn’t a big fan of the monster sculpts.

Still, I kept an eye out and when the campaign actually arrived, the rules changes caught my attention:

  • 2 Survivor types (Soldiers and Civilians) with bonuses and restrictions beyond their skill tree.
  • Changed Targeting Priority – Tanks (Fatties) are now hit first
  • Concentrate Fire (a solution to the problem of being able to do an infinite number of 1-damage hits to a 2-damage enemy without any actual impact).
  • No test to Open Doors (no more wasted turns failing to open the things),
  • Zombie splits no longer add extra zombies (no more 1-zombie-turns-into-3)
  • Running out of figures spawns/activates Abominations rather than the zombie type you ran out of
  • New ways of using equipment.

PledgesThe campaign started off looking like they’d gone back to the model used for Black Plague – 2 tiers, 1 with the expansion (and a few high-tier-only stretch goals) and a basic one. I kept watching, intrigued but not wowed, and the campaign ticked along in a slightly strange position – $1.6 million after 13 days, which is obviously still a hell of a lot of money, but it’s also less than Green Horde managed in 3 days.

Most people predicted a big add-on around the middle of the campaign, to get more money out of existing backers, and drum up more interest. I’m not sure anyone expected quite what they got.

 

Turning to the Dark Side

Sure enough, the big announcement came, for a new product: Zombicide: Dark Side. However, this wasn’t a big-box expansion, it was a whole new base game! The confusing thing about it was that, even though it was a base game, you could only buy it as an add-on – so you had to get Invader to be allowed to buy Dark Side.

DarksideI really liked the look of Dark Side, I preferred the style of monster, and it had a few extra rules that sounded interesting (enemies hide in pits). If there had been a Dark Side-only pledge tier, I would probably have gone for that.

One thing I always keep in mind when I look at buying/backing games, is the possibility of getting a review copy. Given how much Medieval Zombicide we have, would I be ok with the core box-only version of Dark Side?

Well, it didn’t seem like that would be an option either, as Dark Side was going to be a “limited print-run.” This was new terminology for a CMON campaign, but seemed to be defined as ‘only making enough to fulfil KS + retailer pre-orders.’ So probably available at a mark-up from the same webstores selling KS exclusive content for previous campaigns, but unlikely to be floating around in the general world of shops.

 

Looking out for Number 1

I backed the campaign for a dollar. This allowed some time for the dust to settle, so that I could take stock of exactly what you got for what. I think this is where it landed.

Civilian Pledge – Zombicide Invader (6 survivors, 3 zombie types, 1 Abomination, 10 missions, 2 guns/robots) + 37 extra Survivors, 1 duplicate abomination, 16 extra/alt-pose monsters, 5 unique abominations, 8 each of 3 new enemy types, and 2 robots/guns. $100

Soldier Pledge – all of the above + Black Ops large expansion (6 more survivors, 1 new abomination, 2 guns), 4 extra survivors, 2 unique abominations and the mini-monster spawned by one of those abominations $150

Dark Side – Dark Side box (6 survivors, 3 zombie types, 1 Abomination, 10 missions, 2 guns/robots), 1 duplicate abomination, 6 figures of a unique enemy type, 16 duplicate/alt-pose figures of existing zombies, 3 KS-exclusive “companions” and 10 crossover missions for Dark Side and Invader. $90 added to either of the above pledges.

 

A Mad Dash

Zombicide Black Plague contained 6 survivors and 6 player dashboards. Wolfsburg, the big-box expansion came with 4 new survivors and 4 dashboards to play extra survivors, as well as a whole new enemy type. There was a small-box expansion that contained 5 new survivors and 2 more dashboards for a total of 12 (the ‘official’ maximum number of survivors the game can be played with.

As a stand-alone box, Green Horde has 6 survivors and 6 dashboards again. However, they figured that people already had access to enough dashboards by now, so focused expansions on new survivors, an enemy type, tiles, quests, equipment etc.

For the space-age, it seems that Dashboards are back in fashion.

Invader comes with 6 dashboards (as you’d expect)

Black Ops also comes with 6 dashboards. It also comes with 6 new survivors. It doesn’t come with a new enemy type (just an abomination and a robot). This was annoying, but somewhat understandable, as this was the only way (aside from buying 2 copies of invader) to get more dashboards and the game is (notionally) playable with up to 12 characters.

Then they announced Dark Side. It’s a standalone game, so it has 6 more dashboards, and 6 more survivors.

Dash
18 Dashboards!!

Now, if you buy the whole lot, you end up with 18 dashboards! There is no possible way to use more than 12, unless you are running 2 games at once. (Personally, I’ve never gone about 8 Survivors in a game and think that even 10 would give horrendous amounts of downtime). That’s a massive amount of redundancy.

Obviously, CMON knew pre-campaign that they had Invader available. Some people have speculated that this was meant to be next year’s KS, and was only dropped now because the campaign wasn’t performing as well as anticipated, but that’s pure speculation. To my mind, they knew that the extra dashboards were coming, and it would have been really easy to cut some of the excess survivor/dashboard content in Black Ops, give us an extra zombie type.

What you actually get

With all that said, if you get all 3 big boxes, for $240 you’ve got nearly 60 survivors, 40 missions, 10 unique enemy types, 10 abominations. That’s still a lot of mileage in terms of re-play value.

$240 is around £180 right now, 36 hours of play. 40 missions at 1.5 hours is 60 hours – So even if you beat every scenario first time, and never go back to try it with a different enemy/survivor line-up, that’s still £120 to the good in terms of value. Zombicide is one of the few games I can be pretty confident about getting the required table-time to turn that theoretical content into actual hours: less than 6 months after getting Green Horde, it was already at #9 in my all-time most played stakes, comfortably the game that has had the most hours in 2018 (Black Plague is currently down in 4th, I’d expect it to end the year in about 3rd).

Part of me wanted to just get this. It would probably end up being fun, and it would probably end up being good value.

Part of me was feeling the squeeze (on wallet and on gaming time) and was tempted to skip it altogether.

If Dark Side hadn’t happened, I think I’d have been happy just waiting for retail, and trying to bag a review copy of Invader. Knowing that won’t happen (and that it’s probably now or never for Invader) left me more tempted to get stuff.

 

Zombicide: Busy Neighbours

NeighboursAs an added complication a friend, who lives just a few hundred yards away, has also backed this. Most of our Zombicide play is just me and my wife, but 4 player games with him and his wife are the next biggest category. As I own all the Medieval stuff, it seemed sensible to let him shell out for space-age.

The trouble is, my son is 17 months old, meaning my wife and I can no longer both go out in the evening without weeks of planning. His daughter is 5 months old, meaning they’re just starting to try to get a proper evening/bedtime routine for her, and options for the 4 of us to play a game of an evening have pretty-much dried up in recent times. By 2019, when Invader etc are due to arrive, it seems fairly likely that bed-times will be pretty-much locked in, and our evening game sessions will be a thing of the past. Afternoons are a theoretical possibility, but only if my lad learns to stop grabbing by the time he’s tall enough to reach more than an inch or two in from the edge of the table.

DreadOne possibility, was to try to piggy-back on his KS, maybe get a Dark Side as an add-on. Of course, at that point, I knew I’d start wanting to the exclusive aliens, and then it doesn’t take long before the saving in money vs all the extras I’m not getting starts to look like bad economic sense, and it’s better to just get the whole thing myself. Obviously, we could try to split the pledge, but that felt like it would just get messy (who wants Deckard, Starbuck, Leeloo and Judge Dread, and who gets 4 random made-up folk?)

 

Additional

KabukiBy the standards of previous campaigns, Invader didn’t go too overboard on add-ons. There was a boxed add-on for the various new enemy types, and all the usual plastic replacements for cardboard stuff. The most interesting (if strictly superfluous stuff) were the add-on survivor sets including a gang of orphans (meh), a plague doctor and his associates (mmm…) and a Kabuki Troupe (ooo!) The Kabuki troupe are completely superfluous, given the 40+ survivors I’d end up with, but they also seem much too cool to skip (if they release a Samurai version of Zombicide, I’m getting it, no matter how much it duplicates what I already have)

 

Decision?

Luckily,” I drafted, just after the campaign ended, “the way CMON run their pledge managers, I can postpone the decision” perhaps CMON are getting wise to people’s tricks, because the email for the pledge manager arrived very quickly for this, with deadline of the first of July. Remarkably soon all things considered.

I ended up backing Folklore fairly heavily, which tipped this year’s overall costs some way into the red, but decided to sell-up on L5R and Runewars (Although Runewars needed painting first). Then I found out about an opportunity to late-pledge of 7th Continent and CMON’s new game Death May Die. Both of these were pencilled in for July, after I needed to make my decision. There was also no news on Massive Darkness 2 or anything like it.

In the end, I decided not to get the game, although it was a real wrench of a decision. Knowing that Darkside basically won’t have a retail release and not getting it now means not getting it, really gets you right in the FOMOs.

Obviously, my ultimate assessment of a campaign where I spend $1, and don’t get a game, is going to be very different to my take on a massive campaign where I go more-or-less all-in. Overall though, I think I’d have to say that I’m disappointed in this one. They clearly had a lot of cool ideas, but the overall execution felt a bit of a mess – the stretch goals weren’t coherent, they missed a lot of obvious notes for the homages, and several of the ones they did hit disappeared under a (presumed) flurry of legal activity. $3 million is still a huge project, and (presumably) counts as a massive success for CMON, but it’s also a big drop compared to previous Zombicides.

I’m sure that Zombicide Inavder will still be a fun game, and I hope I get to play it at some point (with any luck I’ll get to review the Invader base-game). I hope I won’t regret not backing it (that’s a lot of negatives in that sentence). In the end though, CMON didn’t do enough to convince me that this warranted £100+ of my money

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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…

The Good, the Bad, and the Dead-eye

 

Deadeye-Walkers-Box

Zombicide, as the name might suggest, is a game that contains a lot of Zombies. Pretty-much every monster you’ll face in Zombicide Black Plague will be a zombie form of something or other.

Perhaps the biggest exception to this rule is the Deadeye Walkers, a band of skeletons who will shoot down your survivors with deadly accuracy. The Deadeye Walkers box was originally released alongside Black Plague a few years ago and has been hard to get hold of for a while. With a reprint due in the next few months as part of the Green Horde Wave 2 Kickstarter, I thought this would be a good time to put up a full review of them.

There are 3 sculpts in the Deadeye walker box – an archer firing.

Deadeye-Walkers-Figure-1An archer with his bow pointed diagonally down (just about to draw?)

Deadeye-Walkers-Figure-2

And another with his bow slung on his back and his knife drawn.

Deadeye-Walkers-Figure-3

Personally, I’m a big fan of the first 2 sculpts and slightly less keen on the last one, simply because it doesn’t stand out as clearly as being an archer. That said, all of the miniatures are nicely done, and they make an interesting change from the Zombie mass, with no flesh, exposed bones everywhere, and a slightly better quality of clothing and equipment.

As with all of my Zombicide figures, I painted these up, and was quite pleased with the overall result. Aside from the bows, there isn’t much that makes them stand out from the crowd, but they look nice, and don’t feel too jarring.

Deadeye-Walkers-Box-Interior

Whilst their aesthetic impact isn’t earth-shattering, Gameplay wise, the Deadeye walkers are something completely different. They move a single space per activation, and only require 1 damage to kill, much like a standard walker, but unlike any other zombie, these can attack at range!

When a Deadeye walker activates with line-of-sight to a Survivor at range 1-3 instead of moving, they simply fire their bows. As is generally the way zombies, unlike survivors, don’t need to roll to hit you, and unless you have armour, those hits are going straight onto your party.

Deadeye-Walkers-Building
Indoors is a good place to meet a group of Dead-eyes

Deadeyes challenge a lot of the accepted thinking in Zombicide – whereas backing off, letting zombies come to you, and trying to pick things off at range are all good ideas for most of the standard Zs, to take down a Deadeye you probably want to get up close and personal – quickly!

Deadeye-Walkers-Street
Long streets are more of a problem.

Deadeyes lose a lot of their bite indoors, but can pose serious difficulties in those scenarios where the gaps between buildings span multiple tiles. Deadeyes also add a new element of fear to the Extra Activation for Walkers cards – whereas one clear space to a group of walkers should see you safe, a group of Deadeyes four zones away could pick off a survivor or 2 with the right card!

 

Deadeye-Walkers-Wolfz
Wulfz and Dead-eyes: a combination of Nightmares.

Deadeyes are at their deadliest in combination with the Wulfz of Wolfsburg, simply because the 2 Zombie types encourage such diametrically opposed styles of play. Wulfz are a nightmare in buildings, where they can be well out-of-sight, but still close enough to eat you, but fairly manageable out on a long street where you can shoot once or twice, whilst staying out of the way. Once you have Wulfz and Deadeyes together, you’ll struggle to find a safe place to shoot at the wulfz where the Deadeyes won’t get you back.

As an enemies-only box, Deadeyes are very easy to introduce to Green Horde, but the Hedgerow-heavy environment of the early scenarios takes away a lot of their threat. Where they will thrive is spawning at the top of a waterhole, guaranteeing that your survivors won’t be able to approach and kill them inside a single turn.

 

After Wolfsburg, I think the Deadeyes are the expansion which add the most game-play wise to Black Plague. At the moment they can be a bit hard to track down, but they’re being re-printed as part of to the Green Horde campaign, which should significantly increase the number in circulation. Well worth it if you enjoy Zombicide, especially if you want to up the challenge.

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.

February made me shiver

It’s March as I sit writing this, our first snow day of the year, but February was still pretty nippy.

February was a bit of a more balanced month than January. There was still some Pandemic Legacy being played, but we weren’t far into the month before deciding we needed a bit of a break from it. So far, the lull has dragged on slightly longer than intended, and this should probably be pulled out again soon.

 

10 of 10

10of10-2018-FebI reached 10 plays for Arkham Horror LCG and Zombicide, which meant 3 of 10 games ticked off for the 10×10 Hardcore challenge, I also got my first play of Elder Sign for 2018 in, meaning that all but 1 of the games has now at least started the march towards 10.

For the hardcore challenge, I’m still only at an H-index of 3, although this rises to 4 if you include all games.

With 3 games no longer counting, I expect 10×10 progress to slow down for the next little while. That said, there are still plenty of manageable-length games on the list with plenty of ground to cover. Right now, Gloomhaven feels like the most challenging of the 10 to get finished, although Massive Darkness is definitely experiencing a lull in early 2018.

 

Unplayed

I still have yet to play the vast majority of my games this year – a few more got crossed off in February, but not huge numbers. With a few newish games coming in (reviews, mostly), I think it might be time for another cull of the current library.

Looking at the games which didn’t get played last year, there’s a definite emphasis on big group/party games, which makes sense as those types of gathering just aren’t that common any more – something I blame on the fact that most people we know seem to have children these days. The fact that the friends we most regularly game with had a baby at the end of January means that I anticipate far fewer games with more than 2 players this year.

 

Keeping it Green

GreenHordeIn terms of last month’s new stuff, Zombicide was a blast, as ever. The new Zombie Orcs are tougher than their human counterparts, but the inclusion of upgraded weaponry (including a trebuchet) helps to balance things out. Probably the biggest difference is with map-styles, as the Green Horde tiles have lots of hedgerow areas – big on space, low on line-of-sight: it definitely feels harder than Black Plague at the moment, but I may change my mind as we adjust to the new style. Still plenty more mileage in this.

One-Deck-Dungeon-Card-Game-BoxOne Deck Dungeon can be played solo or 2-player, although I’ve actually been playing a fair amount of 2-handed solo for the best (worst?) of both worlds. As a dice game, there’s definitely a fair amount of luck involved, but I do like how puzzle-y it is, and it’s an interesting mental challenge to figure out how best to allocate the dice, as well as what to do with the rewards. For March I need to get some real 2-player games in before I submit my review.

The original Arkham Horror is the game that’s taking a bit more effort to get played – it really is a monster of a game, and notorious for being a nightmare if you launch in without having properly got the rules down. I had hoped to dedicate some free time on Tuesdays to this, but after someone reversed into my car, the week before I was due to part-exchange it for a new one, the month basically turned into one long string of calls and emails to garages and insurance companies.

 

Alohomora!

Hogwarts-Battle-Card-Game-BoxFebruary saw the first break-through game of the year. I’d expected/hoped that this title would be claimed by Dragonfire, but instead, it was the comings and goings at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry that staked-out our dining table.  Harry Potter Hogwarts Battle, to give it its full name, is a film tie-in with way too many needless “TM” symbols plastered all over it. If you can get past that though, there’s actually an interesting little co-op deck-builder in here.

The game is clearly designed to be accessible to non-gamers and, as such, it sets you up with a pair of opening games that are so simple that they initially struck me as virtually pointless. The game comes with a suggestion that experienced deck-builder-players jump straight to game 3, and this is definitely a move I’d endorse. The one caveat would be for children – although the box says age 11+, we played this with my friend’s children, and whilst the 9 year-old seemed to take it in her stride, I think the 6 year-old found it a bit overwhelming.

Your character (Harry, Ron, Hermione or Neville) has a health total, but you only get stunned rather than KO-ed, which again leans this in the non-gamer/family-friendly direction. The turn structure is very simple – you reveal a Dark Arts card, you trigger powers on the active Villain(s), then you play cards to generate attack (beat up villains), restore health, and gain influence (the game’s currency), which you can then use to recruit new “Hogwarts Cards.”

It’s very swingy – each game/Hogwarts Year adds new Villains, new Dark Arts cards, and new Hogwarts cards, to the point where the Hogwarts deck is massive and bloated, giving you no way to guess reliably which cards you’ll see. Up until game 5, the Villains also appear in an entirely arbitrary order, leading to slightly anticlimactic situations where you eventually overpower Tom Riddle and the Basilisk, but need to spend a few more rounds facing off against Crabb and Goyle before you can go home.

MonsterBoxOfMonstersAs clunky as it is, it does a great job on theme, which is probably why my wife and I ended up playing it 4 times on the day I introduced her to it. The fact that she was mid-way through another rewatch of the films probably helped.

I’m still not 100% sure on what the best thing to do with this long-term is: it’s clearly designed to play through as a progression, but I’m still making my mind up on where the sweet spot is for repeated plays. It will definitely be sticking around, and I might even pick up the expansion, which adds lots of wild animals, a deck-thinning mechanic, and even lets you play as Luna, (although I’ve heard bad things about the detention mechanic – Legendary players, think Wounds with no KO option).

 

Rolling in the Lost Realms

One thing I did manage to do in February, was get some games of Dice Masters in. This is a game that had been in hibernation for a good 6 months or more, but had attracted a bit of attention with the new draft packs. Essentially these are designed as a 1-per-person purchase which give you a set of cards to draft from, but also supply your basic actions for the game and, more importantly, give you 2 dice per card, ensuring that people can actually build teams with a meaningful degree of synergy.

D&Dice
Dragon, because Shiny Dragon. It was the 2 ladies underneath who actually did most of the work.

It was a D&D set that we were drafting, meaning that most of the characters/alignments and keywords were pretty unfamiliar for me, but I managed to put together a decent team, relying on some 2-cost swarm characters that boosted each other, and a character who gave all the “NPCs” (“Sidekicks” for those who’ve played the comic-book versions of the game) extra attack and defence. I also had a blocking character who was able to swap attack and defence when fielded, and a large fire-breathing dragon who only actually came out once all night. In both of the rounds we played, I managed to win my game, and win a friendly that we decided to play because the other pair had barely got going. It was a team that went fast and wide, and would definitely have got ground down if things dragged on too long.

I really like playing Dice Masters, even if I don’t get too many opportunities to play it, and it was nice to remember that I’m actually not too bad at it (although, in fairness, one of my opponents hadn’t played in over a year). I can’t imagine that I’ll get hundreds of opportunities to play this year, but it would be nice if another event or two came along.

 

The Big Picture

By time, February breaks down remarkably neatly, with Lovecraft, Zombies and Fantasy all occupying ¼ each. Of the remainder, Magic is the biggest theme with 12%. By sessions, Lovecraft and Fantasy are slightly larger, whilst Zombies join Magic on a mere 15%. Within Fantasy, it was a bit of a mish-mash, with no clear leading category.

 

Money

Money-wise, there are still some big short-fallers. Gloomhaven, Shadows of Brimstone, Apocrypha (in roughly that order) remain big negatives, although I’m pleased that (for the moment), there’s nothing in the red for 2018 itself, with Arkham play keeping well ahead of the influx of packs. The all-time totals are starting to drop again, although they remain high. There’s a Lord of the Rings pack due imminently that would briefly push me into the red, but it will probably be the last one I buy, so that’s not a long-term concern. I’m getting review copies of the new Elder Sign and Eldritch Horror expansions, which will help keep things in the black overall.

 

Looking forward

Masks
A challenge fit to drive anyone mad: correctly spelling and/or pronouncing Nyarlathotep!

March should have a lot of Arkham Files content to keep things busy, with as-yet-unplayed content for 4 of the 5 games either already here, or due in the very near future. There’s also a lot more Green Horde stuff to dig into, and a couple of slightly weird review-games that need sorting. Now that the whole business with the car seems sorted, hopefully I’ll be able to post a bit more actively than I have in recent weeks.

All the Zombies!

On 17/3/2016, I sat down to play the tutorial of a new game I’d received to review. It was called Zombicide: Black Plague

18 1/2 months and 127 Games (somewhere in excess of 200 hours) of gaming later, I’ve built up quite a collection and today it is, finally finished.

After putting the finishing touches to the last handful of NPCs, I assembled all of the Zombies together for a photocall.

AllTheZombies

That’s a grand total of:

  • 26 Heroes
  • 40 Walkers
  • 14 Runners
  • 14 Fatties
  • 52 NPCs
  • 21 Deadeyes
  • 3 Necromancers
  • 6 Abominations.

AllTheZombies2

(can anyone spot the one figure who was accidentally missed out of this picture? by the time I’d realised, I didn’t have the energy to reassemble them all again.)

Now I just have the entirety of Massive Darkness to keep my paintbrush busy whilst I wait for Zombiecide: Green Horde to arrive…

Old and New: Where the money goes

 

A new month, a new question to ask myself, and a new spreadsheet (did I mention that I’m a geek?)

BigZ LittleZI’ve talked on here a fair amount about making sure that I’m getting value for money for my games (i.e. do the ££s shelled out reflect the hours of gaming being logged?) and about moving to measure things more in time (hours spent gaming) than simply sessions (of course I spent more on 5 sessions of Zombicide than on 5 sessions of Zombie Dice!)

 

The thing I decided to look at specifically this month was how the games I play broke down based on spending – were they old games that I kept playing in their existing form, games I was adding to on an ongoing basis, new things, Or something else entirely? Well, with a bit of time spent poking and prodding a spreadsheet into shape, I was able to find out.

 

The Old

The biggest category by far, was existing games that I was still adding to – as someone who follows a couple of LCGs, that probably isn’t a great shock, but it was interesting to see it quantified: 47% of 2017’s gaming time (so far) has been games that I owned prior to the start of the year, but which have had at least something spent on them.

NewNotNew
That’s a pretty big boost for games which haven’t had anything new bought for them…

The next biggest category was the old – games that have been around since at least last year, and haven’t had anything spent on them, 23% of overall play. This stat is potentially a little misleading, as it includes Legendary (4.26% of the year’s gaming) for which I’ve received 2 new expansions to review this year) and Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective (2.13% of 2017’s gaming) for which I also picked up a new box to review. That said, there are still a lot of games which have been played a handful of times, clocking up a few hours each, which make this category a big one.

BathNed
No babies were harmed during the making of this article, although one got slightly cleaner

Over 2/3rd then, of the year’s gaming was on titles already owned, which suggests a fair amount of continuity, but also a significant amount of change. Obviously it’s subjective, but I feel like this suggests a good mixture of trying new things, and not throwing the baby out with the bathwater (you should never do this, particularly once you have an actual baby to bath).

The New

One reason that the various “new” categories are lower is the simple fact that I’ve had them for less time. Obviously, some of the new games came quite early in the year, but others only arrived in August, with a lot of catching up to do.

Cheap
Even with that box damage on Robinson Crusoe, it’s a good haul for less than £12!

With that caveat in mind the not-quite-a-third of time spent on “New” games broke down into 10% on things I’d spent money on this year, 10% on free new things (i.e. review games), and 8% on Kickstarters.

RunewarsExpansionsOf the things I’d spent money on, a lot of this is just expanding review games (Runewars Miniatures is the chief culprit here), or postage costs for trading review games for something that caught my eye (this is how I picked up Descent and Robinson Crusoe for the unlikely-looking prices of £3.90 and £7.79 respectively). Only Runebound and Rune Age involved a straightforward, old-fashioned, “give a stranger some money and they give you a game” transaction, and those were done via Facebook and EBay rather than the FLGS.

NewHitsIt’s still relatively rare for a review game to be a big hit, be kept long-term, and not prompt further spending – so far, Gloom of Kilforth, Dungeon Time, Battle for Greyport, and Arcadia Quest are the winners here, although Arcadia Quest doesn’t get a LOT of play, and may end up moving on eventually, whilst Gloom of Kilforth will probably one day find itself in the “had money spent” category once the inevitable expansion gets Kick-started.

Kickstarter

I wanted to make Kickstarters their own category, simply because the time-lag between spending the money and receiving the game tends to be so big, that it skews other categories. Right now I’ve got 6 Kickstarters I’m waiting on, plus 1 received a few weeks ago – only 2 of those are even aiming to deliver in the same year they were funded. Hopefully though, lumping together the money spent on this year’s Kickstarters and the time spent playing last year’s (and 2015s, if they ever arrive…) will go some way towards providing a sense of how much value these are.

AeonsBox
The new version comes with the promise of a more sensible box where the boards don’t have to balance on top…

Of the games I’ve categorised as “Kickstarters,” one arguably belongs more in the “expanding reviews” category – War Eternal, the second wave of content for Aeon’s End. However, this didn’t feel quite right overall: the extra money I’ve spent on Aeon’s End is all on stuff I haven’t played (because it hasn’t arrived), which made a lot more sense under the kick-starter heading. Admittedly, all the time I’ve spent playing Aeon’s End is just using content I’d already received, but once the new stuff arrives, I can’t imagine keeping everything separate, so it will ultimately need logging together- having it all go under Kickstarter seemed the simplest, as well as the way to leave the overall numbers least skewed.

Looking Forward

MassiveRight now it’s interesting to try to think how this new categorisation will evolve over the rest of the year. I definitely expect the Kickstarter category to grow (it’s already grown a fair bit whilst I’ve been re-drafting this article): I’m really enjoying Massive Darkness, and whilst I’m a lot less enthused about Apocrypha than I was when I backed it, I still plan on playing it a fair bit, to try to get a sense of whether what I’ve been waiting for all this time has been worth it. Assuming War Eternal and Gloomhaven show up with a decent chunk of 2017 left they should be making their mark too.

As already mentioned, some new games simply weren’t around early in the year (at the start of April, I didn’t own Runewars, Runebound, Gloom of Kilforth, Descent or Massive Darkness, but they’ve clocked up over 55 hours of table time since), so it will be interesting to see whether they form a larger part of play-time as the year goes on.

Efficient Spending?

If I look only at games which have had money spent on them (i.e. ignoring altogether anything owned by someone else, or in the same state it was at the end of last year), then spending on old games is massively more efficient than on any other category- 43% of the money, 70% of the time. Spending on new things is more-or-less even – 16% of the money and 15% of the time. KS is a way down with 42% of the money and only 13% of the time [despite what my rounding might suggest, this is a zero-sum situation, so any improvement for KS will have to come at the expense of one of the others].

Kickstarter is a tricky beast to evaluate. Looking at the game that’s arrived, and the one that’s (probably) due next then, even totalling together all the money I actually spent on my pledge with and a notional amount of interest on top of it, I’ve still spent less that it would cost to pre-order the bits that are available at retail, (never mind any KS exclusives), but that won’t be the case for all projects, and it completely ignores the question of whether or not I would have bought anything beyond the base game if buying at retail (by and large the benefit seems to be fairly marginal on base games, but with expansions bundled together at a knock-down rate). As the next instalment in my intermittent Kickstarter series, I’m planning on taking a more in-depth look at Massive Darkness (probably in about a month or so), and other games will probably get similar treatment in due course, so I won’t say too much more right now on specific games.

Final Thoughts

There’s a danger with every new spreadsheet I concoct that it becomes something over formalised that takes the fun out of the gaming, but this has been an interesting exercise. I probably won’t write on this topic again at length, but may revisit it in future monthly round-ups.