We’re already 1 month into 2021, although Lockdown may have made it feel more like 6 months (and me taking the best part of a week to get this article out probably didn’t help…)
For the most part, the gaming landscape here remained fairly unaltered – Marvel Champions and Carcassonne got played the most times. Arkham Horror and D&D had the most time spent playing them. There were still a few points worthy of mention though, so let’s take a look.
For Marvel Champions, my current project is a solo Wasp expert campaign through the 5 Rise of Red Skull scenarios, with all modular sets taken from the Once and Future Kang pack. I wasn’t a huge fan of her preconstructed Aggression deck (the cost/resource curve is a bit weird), but once I switched her to Justice, she did a lot better. My latest pivot has been to rebuild her for protection ahead of taking on Taskmaster, as I want to be able to drag this one out and rescue as many of the objective allies as possible, and I was struggling to keep up with the sheer amount of damage he churns out.
For Arkham, we’ve started a remote 4-player campaign through the Circle Undone with a couple of friends. We’re only 3 scenarios in (2 plus the prologue), but it’s already been quite the Rollercoaster: our attempt to math out the prologue and give ourselves a chance of rescuing the allies later in the campaign ended fairly quickly and badly, then we stormed through The Witching Hour, with double-digits of XP, before being once again caught very flat-footed in At Death’s Doorstep: a sudden string of surging Doom in act 1 saw us fail to find the mini boss or any of the objectives allies, and although we made it out comfortably enough, the whole thing felt strangely short and slightly underwhelming.
We kept up our 3-player Innsmouth Conspiracy game, making it through Horror in High Gear safely: I won’t talk any more about the scenario yet, as it’s still pretty new and a lot of folk haven’t had the chance to play it.
Both my Dungeons & Dragons games have started back up for the new year. We’ve had another change of line-up in Waterdeep, but the players are making decent progress, as well as doing their best to become the cities leading purveyors of Cake Tapas. Meanwhile in Out of the Abyss, the party learned the perils of getting a Shield Guardian to break-dance in a small tunnel – on the plus side, it allowed me to railroad them into a fetch quest for a magic item that they’ll probably need later.
Carcassonne continues to be a mostly solo game for me – I wracked up 10 sessions in January, and finally managed to score an 8-point city with 3 colours. Right now, the only objectives left outstanding are to score 4 cloisters in a single game, and to use up all the tiles. 1 down, 2 to go.
(No, not the campaign to stop under-age sales of alcohol) Once again this year, I’ve decided to set myself a few gaming challenges for the next 12 months. Some will look fairly familiar, whilst others are venturing into some unexplored territory.
10×10 Multiplayer Hardcore
First up, is the 10×10, a fairly well-established feature by now, both of this blog and of gamers generally: play 10 games, 10+ times each. As I’m doing the “hardcore” version of the challenge, I had to pick my 10 before I started playing them (rather than just waiting until you’ve played a game 10 times, then decide retrospectively that this was one of the ones that counted). For the last few years, there has tended to be a fairly consistent pattern to these – some games get completed in next to no time, most chug along steadily, and 1 or 2 are still sat on 8 games by late autumn, whilst a couple that weren’t on the list are well into double-digits.
After a bit of deliberation, these were my final 10 for 2021:
- Aeon’s End
- Arkham LCG
- Cthulhu: Death May Die
- Harry Potter Hogwarts Battle
- Journeys in Middle Earth
- Legendary: Marvel
- LotR LCG
- Marvel Champions
- Shadows of Brimstone
Just like every year, some of these will be much easier than others – Arkham and Champions will, in all likelihood, be done by about Easter, without too much thought. Other games like Shadows of Brimstone will require a bit more of a concerted undertaking.
One additional feature of this year’s challenge, is that I’m not including solo games for this. I’m honestly not sure how big an impact this will have – I definitely play several of those games solo, but I’ve never previously sat down and calculated the single/multiplayer split. For a game like Champions, it should only be the difference between completing in January or April, but I’ll be intrigued to see how quickly I get to 10 multiplayer games of something like Lord of the Rings.
Having taken the solo games out of the Hardcore challenge, I didn’t want them to disappear completely, so decided to do a separate 10×10 challenge that looked only at solo plays. I’m not doing this in hardcore mode, as I didn’t want to lock myself into something that I end up not enjoying – whilst I’ve not really kept a close watch on solo gaming specifically, I do know that it can definitely vary quite a bit in terms of how enjoyable it feels: sometimes it can be really good fun to squeeze in a quick solo session of something during a random spare hour (or less) that might not otherwise be enough time to set something bigger up, but equally, it can easily turn into a chore if not managed properly.
Looking back at the sheet, I think that there were somewhere between 20 and 25 games that I played solo last year, and of those 11 were games that I played 10+ times. However, that’s 10+ games at all player-counts, and I’m certain that for several of those, I only actually managed 1 or 2 sessions solo. It’s quite possible then, that this challenge will turn out to have been a huge mistake, and that I won’t get anywhere near the target. We shall just have to see.
The last challenge is – in every sense of the word – a new one. I’ve set myself the challenge for 2021 to get some decent play of some new games. I mentioned in the 2020 round-up what a fallow year 2020 was for new titles (as opposed to expansions), with only a few things acquired, and most of those not really played in much depth.
For 2021, I’m setting myself the target of playing 5 new games 5 times. In the interests of transparency, I’ll say that I’m including Flash Point: Fire Rescue in the category of “new” – technically it arrived at the very end of December last year, but never made it out of the box.
Beyond Flash Point, I expect that this challenge will mostly be down to the various Kickstarters I’m waiting on – provided enough of them actually arrive in the first half of the year (which shouldn’t be too much to ask when you consider that 2 of them were due in 2019!) The only 2021 new release that I’m definitely intending to buy is X-Men: Mutant Insurrection – with a Feb/March release date, that’s another that should easily clock up 5 games this year.
Brushing off the Dust
A couple of games from last year’s un-played pile made it to the table early in January. I’m not sure that Flash Point really deserves the “un-played” tag having been around less than a fortnight, but either way, this got played a fair bit – 5 times total between solo and 2-player games. Overall, this seems fun, if very light. After watching the house literally burn down and crush me in game 1, I feel like I got the hang of this one fairly quickly, and the difficulty of the ‘Family’ version is pretty easy. Next task is to start working in some of the other components from the second half of the rulebook, in the hope that these will give the game a bit more challenge/complexity.
Mapominoes is a strange creation – in many respects it’s more of a geography teaching aid than a game per se – the gameplay decisions often feel quite on-rails. In fact, the most interesting aspect mechanically, is that if players approach the game really aggressively (trying to block each other etc), you can end up with a situation where it’s impossible to finish the game (although this is a lot more common with higher player counts and/or when mixing sets). We had a couple of games, and I think that in both case victory probably went to the person who got the best starting hand. Still, in a few more years, it’ll be useful for teaching Ned Geography.
I honestly don’t know why Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective didn’t get played last year. We got it out in early January this year, and finished off the original box, which is one that I got way back in 2016 – this version is no longer published, although a revamped version exists. Now that this box is finished, I’ll sell it (as soon as I get round to it, honest), but we have another half-finished box sat on the shelf for future plays.
New Year’s Savings
January was a pretty cheap month – for a while, it looked like it might end up being a zero spend month, but that possibility vanished at the 11th Hour (well, the 28th day) when the Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch packs for Marvel Champions appeared on the pre-order sheet. Given how quickly everything Champions has been selling out, and the length of the reprint cycles, I jumped in with a couple of pre-orders. (This turned out to be a very good decision, as Asmodee UK then put out a press-release, saying that they’d just realised Scarlet Witch wasn’t meant to come out until March, and that any stock that they hadn’t already sent out to retailers would be held until the official date).
Although there weren’t any big costs in January, there’s a couple of large outlays on the horizon, including
a pair of three Pledge Managers. Massive Darkness 2 has been making waves over the past few weeks, after it opened up containing some remarkably hefty VAT charges. CMON’s official stance is that due to a change in the law, they now have to be very explicit in demonstrating that VAT has been charged, hence the additional cost to customers. The underlying suspicion raised by many is that this means they weren’t paying (or at least weren’t paying enough) VAT previously, hence the new charges. Either way, it means the MD2 (and any other CMON project) is likely to be more expensive from hereon in. I still need to decide exactly what I’m going to get for Massive Darkness – my wife is still keen to get the game, but I’m almost certainly backing off slightly in terms of the expansions I go for.
Pledge Manager #2 is for Nova Aetas: Renaissance. This is a fun-looking Fantasy meets Renaissance Italy game where you get to play as the Mandalorian! (sort of…) I suspect that I’ll end up just going with the base pledge, simply because of how many other things there are competing for my time, and not knowing how much interest it will generate from my wife, although there’s definitely a whole pile of stuff that I could end up adding if the mood took me. “More big boss monsters” isn’t that appealing, but there are plenty of added mechanics and gameplay in the bigger-box expansions, and they do seem to be fairly heavily discounted vs the notional future retail price, so that’s something to keep in mind.
The 3rd, and somewhat unexpected Pledge Manager to open up (I was expecting it a couple of months later) was for Freedom Five. This is a co-op dice game in the Sentinels of the Multiverse… Multiverse? I played a game on TTS during the campaign, and backed at the $5 level (they’ve clearly got wise to the $1 trick and decided to squeeze us all a bit harder). It’s something of a re-skin of Defenders of the Realm, by Richard Launius, with Adam and Brady Sadler also involved in the design, all names which caught my eye. Sadly, the various levels of pledges and add-ons seem needlessly complex, with not only multiple different levels of add-ons included or not, but the divide between minis and standees. Standees are appealing from a cost perspective, but I’m struggling to figure out whether there’s an amount of gameplay between the extremely minimalist “retail version” and the “gameplay all-in.” (the more middling option definitely exists in miniatures form, but obviously costs more than its (possibly hypothetical) standees equivalent.
In terms of long-term shortfalls, it’s the same old story: Tainted Grail, Call to Adventure, and Death May Die. Death May Die has been played a couple of times, and is nearly at break-even, but the others are still lagging. Next month I’ll need to start counting Flash Point and Vadoran Gardens, my 2 December purchases, but as noted above, I don’t anticipate Flash Point staying in the red for long. Kickstarters aside, the main games that I’m anticipating upcoming spending on are the Marvel Champions and Arkham, both of which have been played plenty, so shouldn’t suddenly be falling back into the red.
For February, I’m looking to re-start my Call of Cthulhu RPG campaign, and start delving a bit deeper into some of the titles that didn’t get much table time in January. It’s also my son’s birthday, so we’ll see whether we can give him another nudge from Orchard to Haba games with a couple of new titles.