In a lot of respects, October was a month of “might-have-been”s – a full day’s Arkham cancelled (because tightened Covid restrictions meaning we couldn’t send Ned to his grandparents for the weekend), a few days of annual leave earmarked for gaming, blogging and painting instead swallowed up by renovating the bathroom and taxiing the family around. Various plans not-quite coming to fruition.
It wasn’t all Doom-and-Gloom though (although there was a spot of Dominion and Gloomhaven!) let’s look at what we did manage…
For Arkham, we managed to squeeze in a couple of 3-player games of the new Innsmouth Conspiracy box, back at the start of the month, when we were still allowed people in the house. (the remainder of the campaign will inevitably relocate to Zoom). Meanwhile George and I continued with our Investigator Starter Deck pre-build campaigns through the Dream-Eaters. Winnie and Harvey got badly trounced on the Dark Side of the Moon, but Nathaniel and Jacqueline fared rather better through A Thousand Shapes of Horror and the Point of No Return. I like what FFG have tried to do with the Investigator starter decks, but we’ve definitely run into frustrations playing them, due to not having access to particular cards – definitely a topic worth visiting in more detail at a later date.
The big event for Arkham was Madness on the Airwaves, a re-run through Midnight Masks, using a bunch of custom cultists I’d created, based on the hosts of the Card Game Cooperative, Drawn to the Flame and Mythos Busters. In case a jokes-based set of custom enemies wasn’t a bad enough idea to begin with, we decided to play the game 5-player! Just to really ensure that everything spiralled.
It was an interesting experience overall – Midnight Masks has a really small encounter deck to begin with, and by the time you factor in a couple of cards that attach to locations and remain in play, we were cycling the deck every 2-3 rounds. We’d all brought stand-alone decks, and even when you factor in the extra weaknesses, we felt very powerful compared to the scenario itself. It took us a long time to gather the necessary clues, but once a Cultist landed, it was easy to squash them, generally in an action or two.
I’ve already changed one of the enemies, based on this experience (he had a joke ability that reasonably amusing, but made it way too easy to break the scenario with a single card), but want to try it again, in a 2-player game with proper campaign progression before I decide on whether I want to make any more changes, then maybe try to get a nicer set printed in the new year.
Marvel Champions was actually my most-played game for another month running, but this was mostly just solo games as I attempted to test and refine a few new decks (with limited success). We also got to try out a 2-player game against the new Kang villain pack (for Lord of the Rings fans, this is Marvel’s take on Foundations of Stone) it was enjoyable, although I missed a step in set-up, and the end was interrupted by an unexpected Ned, so we need to try this again – once that’s done, I want to do another full run-through of the Red Skull campaign box, probably looking at taking a Ms Marvel/Captain Marvel team-up against that in November.
We also managed a Halloween meet-up for ¾ of the Card Game Cooperative, taking on some Pumpkin Bombs (wielded by Green Goblin – we were going to go for Crossbones, but Will doesn’t own Rise of Red Skull yet…) I think that my Ms Marvel Justice deck acquitted itself fairly well, but Aggression Thor and Protection She-Hulk both struggled with lack of cards and took a surprising amount of damage (you know it’s a bad state of affairs when you have 9 health between 3 Heroes, and 6 of that belongs to Ms Marvel) – the lack of thwart from the other 2 heroes meant we all had to spend too much time in hero mode, and ultimately the damage that gobby and friends were putting out was just too much. Clearly we should have listened to our own survey and not taken the lowest powered heroes against the highest powered villain!
It was a relatively quiet month for Lord of the Rings, but way back at the start of October, we took inspiration from the recent announcement for Voyage of the Dreadnought, and revisited the Grey Havens deluxe for a spot of sailing. George and I were joined by a friend who hadn’t played the game in a few years, but handled her dwarf swarm fairly well as we beat the first quest. Sadly the return of lockdown prevented a follow-up, and all being well, she’ll have a new baby by the time we get let out again…
Nobody Tosses a Dwarf
One of the surprise hits amongst the review games I picked up during my time working with Games Quest, was The Dwarves, based on the novels of Markus Heitz. Both games and books have an interesting story, presented for English speakers via some decidedly mediocre translation (in the novels I found it variously off-putting and annoying, but in the board game it’s just funny).
Earlier in October, a guy on Facebook was very kindly offering a selection of goodies for the game, awarded to those who could give the best reason and/or pun for why they should have it. I forget exactly what I said, but it was enough to land a copy of The Dwaves: The Duel, in-and-of-itself, it’s a fairly mediocre 2-player card game (albeit with the lovely mangled English), but it comes with a whole new set of objective cards to breathe some fresh life into the original game – our first game came down to a final throw of the dice before we lost, so we’ll need to try this one again soon.
Lots? Or None at All
Gloomhaven made it back to the table, with my Elementalist continuing to hang-around since I discovered I’d misread the rules months ago, and have to fulfil his retirement goal in 12 instalments rather than all-at-once. George’s
Bard. Sorry. “Soothsinger” continues to rack up XP at a ridiculous rate, and after her last level-up, we’re up against some very hard-hitting enemies vs our power-level, so will need to bag a bit more XP to level things out again. We also managed another game of Mansions of Madness which, like Gloomhaven ended the month on 9 plays – that’s 98/100 down, and the hardcore challenge very nearly done!
On the flip side of challenges, I’m now 5/6th of the way through the year, and still have a far bigger pile of unplayed games than I’m comfortable with. For some, like Articulate and Dixit, I’m happy to just accept that 2020 is not the year for party games, but for others, there’s a definite element of wondering whether I should be crowbarring these into the gaming schedule or putting together a sales post.
I made what felt like good progress on the money side of things – good chunks of table-time for several of the games with a “shortfall” versus that ever-elusive £5/hour target. Tainted Grail, Shadows of Brimstone, Death May Die, 7th Continent – all making progress in the right direction. However, I have now owned Call to Adventure for long enough to start counting it towards my totals, and at just under £35 for just under 1 ¾ hours’ play, this was enough to offset the gains made elsewhere. It’s a perfectly playable game, and should improve fairly rapidly on that £20/hour figure! Just as soon as a I get round to introducing it to my wife.
In terms of actual expenditure, it was another expensive month, there were a couple of pledge managers closing (I eventually decided to get Nemesis: Lockdown, but to skip the original game, on the basis that a friend is getting it, and hopefully by February we’ll be able to meet up again to play it, even if that does involve freezing our fingers off in his garage with all the doors open (or whatever Covid-compliant options are available then).
I also added several expansions to some of my most-played games: the Moria packs for Lord of the Rings LCG, plus ordering the latest releases for Arkham and Marvel. All of these are games that easily clock up the table-hours to justify the spend, so no real worries there.
As we head into the last 2 months of 2020, I’m not expecting anything particularly seismic to change the board-gaming landscape. National Lockdown basically just confirms the suspicions I had from Nottingham entering Tier 3 lockdown: hopefully not heading back into the office this side of Christmas, so continuing to make as much use as I can of the extra time saved from not doing an hour’s commute each day.
Right now, I don’t see there being any completely new games arriving before the end of the year, my last real hope was that the first wave of Sword and Sorcery might finally reach me in December, but latest update says January, so nothing doing there. There’s probably one more round of LCG releases, plus potentially Wave 2 of Tainted Grail this side of Christmas, but in terms of actually new games, I think it will be 2021 before there’s much to report.
Hopefully, November will be when I finish off the 10×10 Hardcore challenge, and take a chunk out of that pile of shame, which is feeling a bit big, still being in double figures this late in the year. Crucially, I’m hoping for a few weeks without any major home improvement projects, to finally give me the time to put out some proper game reviews!