2 months down. 10 to go. Still no sign of other folk being allowed in the house for games (yes, they’ve said that restrictions might be over by June, but I’m definitely in the “I’ll believe it when I see it” camp).
Overall February was a tough month – I think everyone is feeling the strain. I’ve talked in the past about how my mental health isn’t always that great, and I think the cold, dark days of winter felt particularly oppressive this time around. Generally playing games is still something that helps me to cheer up, but that assumes I can find the energy and the motivation to actually set them up and get started to begin with.
The very end of the month was a bit brighter, in most senses of the word, and there was still a good chunk of gaming throughout.
Surprising new arrivals
I played a remarkable number of new games this month, but it doesn’t take the closest observer to spot definite theme to the newcomers. Rhino Hero, Animal Upon Animal, Snug as a Bug in a Rug, and Monza – all arriving in the house to mark Ned’s 4th Birthday. This is actually a slightly controversial set of plays to log, given that I’ve never bothered tracking plays of Where’s My Cupcake or Dotty Dinosaurs on BGStats (shockingly, Little Bus Lotto doesn’t even have a BGG page, but those other classics do!) maybe it’s snobbery on my part, but most of those Orchard Games don’t really feel like they count, whereas the Haba ones generally require something of the players, that can see them lose as a result of their own errors (mostly that’s “wobbly hands”) – Snug as a Bug in a Rug blurs this line a bit, there’s a certain level of mental challenge involved, and you can manage probability to an extent in the first half of the game, but a lot of it boils down to the random spin. If I continue to count all 4 of these, then that 5×5 New challenge will be over fairly quickly, so I might end up adapting it slightly.
Arkham Horror continues to be a much-played game. It’s actually the most-played by time, even keeping ahead of D&D for the moment, although Champions beats it for most sessions because it’s that much easier to squeeze in a 20-minute solo game. That said, I’ve definitely noticed a new trend creeping into Arkham this year: we’ve got multiple remote campaigns going: a 4-player Circle Undone and a 3-player Innsmouth Conspiracy run-through, as well as having (more-or-less-) successfully introduced the game to a friend for a remote Night of the Zealot (suddenly those ‘useless’ duplicate cards from that second core-set proved their worth, as I was able to drop a box of stuff round to her house, then talk through the rest of it via Zoom).
Whilst this has been fun, I feel like it’s been a significant encumbrance on our ongoing 2-player games at home. For one thing, a remote Arkham game tends to fill a whole evening, rather than leaving time for another game and, more to the point, the sheer amount of time spent building and dismantling decks often leaves me thinking that I don’t have the energy to set things back up, only to tear them down a few days later. It hasn’t completely killed off 2-player sessions: Skids and Amanda have dispatched the beast of Devil Reef, after a successful trip to the Clover Club, Skids only needs to spend 6 resources per game on Hospital Debts, instead of 9. Still, something to keep an eye on in future, and just look forward to when we’re (eventually) able to go back to meeting up indoors, when we can hopefully cram multiple games into an evening, which should make a difference.
You Didn’t See that Coming?
February saw the arrival of the Maximov twins to Marvel Champions. Scarlet Witch in particular was something of a surprise (Asmodee UK messed up the release date, and had to withdraw it from sale – fortunately not until after pre-orders had shipped. Everyone else should be getting theirs in about a day or so, depending on when I manage to publish this article).
Both of them are good fun. Scarlet Witch is appropriately chaotic, and also gives Justice a long-overdue boost in terms of player cards (not that Justice had really struggled for power, but it’s nice to have the variety and feel like there are a few more meaningful decisions to be made when deck-building). Quicksilver is a bit of a slow starter, and definitely takes a bit of time to warm up, but once he’s in full flow, feels really powerful – good enough even to make up for being packaged with Protection cards. (I’m starting to wonder if it’s deliberate that all the best heroes come with Protection pre-cons, in order to curb their power-level…)
Zombies. Thousands of ‘em!
I played a decent amount of Zombicide in February, both Green Horde and Dark Side – our first game of Dark Side was a little underwhelming as we blasted through a “hard” scenario in 30 minutes with very little jeopardy. This prompted me to go back to the rulebook and remove the spawn cards listed as the “easy” part of the deck which is something I’d never actually gotten round to doing during the previous 5 years of Zombicide (I’d just added tougher zombies, which means you can get hit harder, but does reduce the risk of running out of miniatures) – it definitely had the desired effect, as the next scenario filled a whole evening, with success only coming on the second attempt.
There is currently a Kickstarter ongoing for the latest iteration of Zombicide, the Wild West-themed “Undead or Alive” – like most new iterations of Zombicide, there are a few subtle variants on the well-established theme: character classes, temporary spawn points and an end to doors seem to be the big ones here. I was disappointed that this didn’t come with a campaign mode from day 1, but they more than made up for it when they announced the Steam Punk add-on box – it’s not to some people’s taste, but I really like the aesthetic, and it’s got some fun homages amongst the KSE survivors. They’ve even added horse-mounted survivors, although I was a little bit underwhelmed that this wasn’t part of a big-box expansion bringing the open plains to the game. Right now I’m in for $1, and mostly hoping that they don’t add too many more optional buys, so that I can go all-in. Whatever happens, I can’t really imagine a situation where I don’t end up backing this, at least for the base+first big box. Zombicide is always good fun, and they know how to make each version play in a way that feels unique without pushing things too far and losing the simple charm that makes the game unique. If nothing else, the miniature quality is a cut above a lot of the figures I have for Shadows of Brimstone, so these will sub in nicely there.
Beginning of the End (of the beginning?)
February also saw a few games of Aeon’s End, which is another game that has an active Kickstarter for further content. Legacy of Gravehold is one that I’ve been feeling quite torn on: on the one hand, it concludes the story arc that we’ve been playing through over the past few years, and seems to offer a huge stack of new content. On the downside, it sees a return to Legacy, which is firmly entrenching itself as my least-favourite game-mechanic. On the plus side, it seems to be mostly stickers rather than actually tearing things up, but the reset pack looks like a seriously hefty lump of cardboard (and one which will be A LOT more expensive at retail, so is definitely a buy-now-or-never sort of proposition). I’m currently leaning towards getting the game, but mounting all the stickers on cardboard to use as tokens instead
Mono No Aware
In mid-February Fantasy Flight announced the conclusion of the Legend of the 5 Rings LCG. This wasn’t a huge surprise to anyone – FFG has always struggled to maintain competitive LCGs long-term, as the barrier to entry rises to the point where the game buckles under the weight of its own cardpool, and 2020 was likely to be a fatal blow to any game which relied heavily on Organised Play. Beyond that, it has provided more grist to the rumour mill which likes to speculate heavily on the demise of FFG.
Weirdly, this announcement impacted me slightly differently. Long-time readers will know of my love for the Lore and Art of L5R, but I sold my collection a few years ago, because I just could not find the time to get out and be part of a local play-group consistently enough to justify continuing to buy the packs.
However, at the same time as announcing “this is the end” FFG also unveiled the final expansion which finally brings in a full-on Shadowlands faction and gives the option for players to play cooperatively (or even solo?) against the Shadowlands. Suddenly those people selling off their collections on eBay look a lot more tempting.
I probably won’t end up getting back in to this – even a good deal on a collection at this point will be a significant outlay, and whilst I enjoyed the L5R I played, it was always a pretty long, fairly brain-burn-y game. I’m a little bit dubious as to how well it can be converted into a co-op/solo experience via a single expansion. As a friend has noted, FFG still appear to own the IP, so hopefully this is a testing point for an L5R co-op LCG to re-boot in a couple of years.
February was a cheap month. A REALLY cheap month, in that I didn’t end up spending anything on games! Largely, this was because of Asmodee UK and their stock issues – Scarlet Witch being paid for in January, whilst A Light in the Fog for Arkham and X-Men Mutant Insurrection remain “on the boat” somewhere, despite having made it into the hands of gamers in other parts of the world. I also sold some things – one old game very cheaply, and a few Arkham promos for a very nice sum, so I’m in profit for the month -and, indeed, for the year. It won’t last, but it’s a nice place to be starting from.
In terms of games with an outstanding shortfall, there was pretty good progress across the board: a solid 2+ hour session for Tainted Grail, another couple of games of Flash Point and, perhaps most significantly of all, Cthulhu Death May Die into the black, as we started cracking through some of the Season 2 scenarios against Cthulhu – still a great fun game, looking forward to many more hours of it yet. Vadoran Gardens was the only game still in the red not to hit the table in February, so I’ll be looking to remedy that in March.
I made good progress on my various gaming challenges this month: for the Multiplayer 10×10 Hardcore challenge, I clocked up another 20 sessions across 8 of the 10 games, so still progressing at the same sort of speed as January. Arkham LCG is the only game to have already reached 10 sessions, but the challenge as a whole is chugging along well. Things were a fair bit slower for the solo challenge: 1 or 2 sessions for a few different games, but not many games getting into high player-counts, lots of different games played 1-3 times right now.
It won’t have escaped the attention of regular readers that there’s been a pretty high ratio of Book Review to everything else on here over the past few months, and I decided that, even though they up to now they’ve all been board-game tie-ins, it was getting a bit overwhelming. In an attempt to alleviate that, I’ve set up The Story Board as it’s own independent blog. If you fancy reading more of my book reviews, most of which will still be gaming-IP tie-ins (but may also get supplemented with whatever else I happen to be reading about) then head over, and if you don’t, you can relax at the thought of a mostly book-free time on here.
March will be a much more expensive month. I’m expecting at least 1 Arkham pack, hoping for Mutant Insurrection, the end of the Zombicide Kickstarter, plus having to decide on the new Aeon’s End, and finalise the Pledge Managers for Nova Aetas and Massive Darkness (maybe even… only whisper it… Shadows of Brimstone Adventures). In terms of deliveries, there’s potential for some of the long-awaited Kickstarters to finally start arriving: Marvel United and Intrepid look the most likely on that count. It’s also my birthday at the very end of the month, so that might bring along some new goodies with any luck. I’ve already managed one review, so check out Journeys in Middle Earth, and I’ll do my best to send more content your way before the March run-down in April!