Already a month of 2023 has been and gone. It’s a fresh start for the various lists of games. Let’s see what happened.
Living Card Games
It was a strong start for the co-op LCGs, 3 out of the 4 games most-played by hours. In Arkham Horror, we’ve started a Scarlet Keys campaign, playing 2 scenarios, with another due in early February. It’s been an interesting experience doing the blind play-through as a group of 4 with some friends, rather than just 2 of us at home. Too early to really have much to say on the campaign itself.
Marvel Champions was a little behind Arkham in hours, but is once again the game that has been played the most times. A bit more experimentation with the new X-Men characters and scenarios, my wife and I finished off our Storm and Wolverine 2-player run-through of the Mojo mini-campaign, just in time for The Card Game Cooperative to catch up with expansion designer Tony Fanchi. I’ve also been going back and filling in a few gaps in the history of Hero/Villain match-ups: She-Hulk and Captain America both getting their first plays in quite a while, going up against old favourites like Rhino, Ultron, and Mutagen Formula.
Lord of the Rings didn’t get played as many times as Champions, but is still riding fairly high on the by-hours chart, thanks to an epic 4-player game of Challenge of the Wainriders.
This is a scenario from the final cycle of the game where the heroes are pitted against an enemy, literally racing around a loop of locations, and having to pass tests to pass from one quest card to the next. After a poor start where we found ourselves far behind, we’d put on a sudden burst of progress, overtaking the Wainderider Champons, and looked to be heading for victory. Sadly, we failed 2 Race tests on the final 2 rounds, losing by a single card – as the Hero responsible for that final test was ALEP’s Nob, best known as the barman from The Prancing Pony in Bree, there’s probably an important lesson here about why you shouldn’t drink and drive…
On a role…
It was also a pretty good month for my RPGs, managing to get sessions in for both my D&D games. The Curse Strahd party offered a reminder of why you should never trust adventurers (they “helped” a villager get rid of the Vampire Spawn in his loft by fireballing his shop to ruins) The other game (Out of the Abyss) really struggled for sessions in the second half of 2022, and didn’t get a whole lot down, other than wandering, lost, around some tunnels, but it’s good just to have everyone back at the table. Fortunately, I have months, if not years worth of material in the bag for both of these games, so I don’t need to worry about whether or not it’s ok to buy D&D products from Wizards of the Coast again…
It was also exciting as a month where I got to play in multiple RPGs. Our Call of Cthulhu (7e) Masks of Nyarlathotep game finally completed the Prologue, and we’d just been summoned back together, finding our friend/contact dead next to some suspicious looking cultists when a string of other commitments cropped up. We’ll be continuing this one in a fortnight, and are looking forward to getting stuck in.
I also had the session zero for a new game I’m going to be playing in, of the Avatar RPG. We were mostly just establishing the era and area for our game, as well as pencilling in the broad outlines for character-creation, with the game proper kicking off in February, but it was good fun, and it looks like a fascinating system to play – very different from any of the major systems I’ve played before. I’ll post more on this one once there’s actually something to tell.
I’m hoping to get another game session up-and-running soon, namely a The One Ring campaign. I’ve got 4 players and a vague slot in the week lined up, now I just need to finish learning the rules well enough to teach and learn it…
There wasn’t much that was brand new in January, but all of the new games from December got played again. Mists of Carcassonne continues to be extremely difficult (I’ve now attempted Level 3 a couple of times, but not gotten anywhere close to beating it), so lots of short games of this, but I also played Call of Cthulhu a few times (a 2-handed solo game, and a proper 1v1 game with a friend), so the next step is definitely to start some proper deck-building, and print off the bits I need for the proper solo mode. The Clone Wars has been played a couple more times, and it feels like we’re starting to get the hang of it, although we’ve only played against the introductory villain and on the easiest difficulty, so there’s plenty of scope to keep playing this one with little danger of getting bored.
It was a good start to the year for both the solo challenge and the Hardcore Multiplayer challenge. All 10 games in the Hardcore got played in multiplayer at least once, and several got played multiple times: Arkham, Marvel United, Mists, Zombicide are all at 4 sessions, putting me on 25/100 already.
New games is, unsurprisingly, some way behind, because I don’t have any new games yet. As I think I mentioned in an earlier article, I’m strongly leaning towards counting the things I got for Christmas as “new” for 2023, given that they were only owned for 6 days of 2022 – by that reckoning, 2 sessions of The Clone Wars is a notable stat, but I can’t quite bring myself to include Mists Over Carcassonne, given that it managed 10 plays in that end-of-year week last time.
January was a good month money-wise, as I didn’t spend anything! Obviously, that’s not going to last long, and the Marvel United: Multiverse Kickstarter is currently looming very large on the horizon. After the X-Men campaign, I hadn’t expected them to do a third one, but they’ve come back with a stated theme of “Multiverse” and a remarkable focus on Marvel Cosmic.
Overall, I’m feeling a little torn on this one: on the one hand, there are some characters included who feel like they fill in a lot of gaps that were previously missed, but there are also a good number of characters that I don’t find that interesting.
Couple that with the fact that they’ve announced a “Spider-geddon” direct-to-retail Core box coming in late spring, which will have SP//DR, Spider-Man Noir, Silk, Superior Spider-Man and others, and there’s a temptation to leave some or all of this behind.
I suspect that the things that will probably sway me into getting most, if not all of the KS content, are the various new card decks that they’re adding: Items, Team decks, Campaign Mode. These look very cool, but they’re definitely going to require a sprawl of content from across the various releases.
February kicks off with Ned’s birthday, and there’s always the hope of a new game or 2 there. I also hear rumours that the Aeon’s End: Past & Future campaign is about to start UK fulfilment, ideally timed, as I’ve just got to the point where last year’s Kickstarter has been played enough to get under the £5/hour mark. Hopefully February will see Rogue and Gambit come join the line-up for Marvel Champions, and I’ve got a few other bits and pieces planned.
2022 was quite a year. From a gaming perspective, it was quite unprecedented in terms of the levels of activity (lots), but a really barren year from a blogging perspective. It’s been a struggle, and very little has managed to happen when and how I’d hoped. Still, plenty of stuff to look back at, so let’s take a peek…
First up, the big-picture numbers: I played a whopping 122 different games in 2022, for a staggering 1095 plays total. In both cases, that’s the most I’ve ever managed in a single year, and it’s fairly consistent across the counts – most unique games played, most games played twice or more, ten times or more, twenty times or more – it’s only at the higher end where I fall down – 2015 and 2016 had more games being played 50+ or 100+ times. Of those 122 games, 33 were new to me, with the new games accounting for 218 sessions all-told – that’s around a 5th of all my plays.
In terms of hours, it was a grand total of 759 hours – again a record, edging out 2020 by about two-and-a-half-hours. However, those hours were pretty spread out compared with previous years: the top ten games (by time) accounted for 51% of overall gaming time, which is the lowest since 2018 and the number 1 game accounted for less than 12% of gaming time, which is the lowest since I started keeping track.
Moving on from the big-picture stats, let’s take a look at the specific games that made a splash this year.
The co-op LCGs are a cornerstone of a lot of my gaming, and 2022 saw this trend continue. Marvel Champions was played the most times, and Arkham Horror for the most time.
For Marvel, there’s no real surprise here – it was a fantastic year for the game, with the Sinister Motives campaign box, a wave of Champion and Web-Warrior heroes, and then finally the X-Men made their long-awaited arrival in the autumn with the Mutant Genesis box. Honestly, I still haven’t really given the X-Men characters the time they deserve, but SP//DR, Ironheart and Nova were all brilliant, and I’m excited for the future of the game.
For Arkham, it was a bit of a different story. For the vast majority of the year, there was very little in the way of anything new coming along, and honestly I’ve been fairly disillusioned with the game for a fair while. I didn’t especially enjoy The Edge of the Earth as a campaign (a smaller number of massive, sprawling scenarios, with a bit too much narrative text to the point where it felt like an obstacle to actually playing the game), and I had a particularly miserable time playing through it with Daniela Reyes – a character rated highly by many but who, for me, is probably the investigator I would least like to ever have to play again.
The Norman-style deck-building (start in 1 class, level-up to another) feels awkward and clunky at the best of times, and only Lily Chen really feels like she manages to rise above those constraints to actually be fun to play. I was hoping that a mid-year Return to Dream-Eaters might help deal with some of the ongoing disappointment, until FFG announced that this whole product line has been indefinitely paused (the older boxes in the series are already going out-of-print, which is an absolute travesty). With Return to The Circle Undone being the stand-out highlight of 2021, this felt like a huge mis-step.
As a result of all this, I was already in a fairly downbeat mood going into the seemingly-endless “spoiler season” for The Scarlet Keys, where cards were spoiled, seemingly without end, mostly on YouTube, until each new announcement was greeted with internal screaming “just give us the cards already!” The Scarlet Keys investigator expansion (new investigators and player cards) finally arrived in mid-September, and the campaign box right at the end of December, meaning it didn’t actually get played until the New Year.
The reason that the game still got so much play-time was mostly because we had ongoing campaigns with other people that had enough momentum to keep going (and when you play this game 3 or 4-player, it can take a LOONG time). The 2-player campaigns that my wife and I were playing (historically the mainstay of my Arkham time) were limited to finishing off Edge of the Earth at the start of the year, and an aborted attempt to revisit an older campaign that ran out of steam mid-year. Solo I managed just a handful of sessions, all standalone, and all because I need to play a specific thing ahead of a podcast episode. We also picked up a sneaky preview of Fortune & Folly towards the end of the year, which needed to be binge-played for a timely review.
Fortune & Folly will be getting a proper release in the spring (the copy I played in the autumn was just a borrowed one), the first session of our Scarlet Keys playthrough last week was quite enjoyable, and we’re also making some headway on a 2-player campaign of Dark Matter, the fan-made campaign that a friend organised a printing of last year, so I expect another strong year for Arkham.
Lord of the Rings is definitely the third-placed of the co-op LCGs these days, but it still puts up a remarkably good showing given its age: 44 games, 28 hours, it was my 4th most-played game on aggregate (despite being 5th by sessions and 6th by time). It’s the only game I own to have logged more than 500 plays in the last 8 years, and if I look at previous years, I have a further 250 logged victories, suggesting that it might not be that far off a round thousand games since it released nearly 12 years ago now.
There weren’t slightly fewer new games this year than last, and they accounted for fewer plays overall, but I wasn’t really expecting Marvel United’s 72 plays to be emulated by another new arrival. Undoubtedly the new game which made the biggest impact in 2022 was Massive Darkness 2. We have a bit of a soft spot for the old Massive Darkness in our house: it’s clunky, and has some definite flaws, along with a difficult curve that frontloads the challenge too much and can make the latter stages a bit formulaic, but my wife is rarely looking for something that’s going to beat us after we’ve put that much time in, anyway.
Massive Darkness 2 was a Summer 2020 Kickstarter which I was originally all-in for. Sadly, it turned out to be the first Pledge Manager to fall foul of the revisions to VAT law, meaning that when the Pledge Manager arrived, costs had skyrocketed, and I ended up dropping 2 or 3 expansions.
When it arrived, the game turned out to be really good. It’s still a bit on the easy side sometimes, and the games can run REALLY long, but they’ve done a fantastic job of ironing out a lot of the wrinkles, and creating some properly distinct asymmetrical hero classes. We played through the core box, then the truly inspired “Rainbow Crossing” campaign, and are now making our way through the “upgraded” prologue campaign (i.e. the scenarios from the original KS, updated for version 2 rules) – this makes it a fairly epic undertaking (lots of different boxes for all the content from waves old and new), but definitely worth it. 33 hours of this (24 sessions) make it easily a top-ten game, and a standout amongst the new acquisitions.
As well as the hits, there were also some misses in 2022. Biggest disappointment was The Everrain, which finally arrived, a whopping 30 months late! They blamed Covid, but that doesn’t really convince me, given that it was supposed to arrive in October 2019. What I ended up with was a massive box, a vacuum-formed insert that seemed to have been designed with the objective of “how to waste as much space as possible,” a set of playmats that were misprinted and too small to be useable, and a truly dire rulebook. I played it a handful of times, then sold it on, grateful that I wasn’t in America (where most of them still don’t have their games, and the few that are just starting to get their copies have had to pay extra for the privilege. I also received my copy of Nemesis: Lockdown and, whilst I’d say that it’s a much better game objectively, it just felt too much of a punishing slog. I need to learn that, high production values aside, most Awaken Realms games are too grindy to find popularity in this house.
One game that I had been really excited for was Oathsworn: Into the Deepwood. This one is still here, and wasn’t nearly as bad as the other two – it will definitely get back to the table at some point, but it definitely didn’t quite live up to expectations.
When this was launched, the number of unique mechanics that they were describing felt like a strong positive, but when it came to actually playing it, the game felt a bit more bloated than I’d hoped for. Too much book-keeping, too many fiddly things to keep track of, and an overall sense that the inside of the box was a great big jumble of components that don’t really fit back inside the box once opened!
Most other new arrivals fell into the “it’s fine, we’ll play it periodically” camp – Sentinels of the Multiverse, Flourish, Warhammer Quest, all getting to the table around 10 times. The other 2 big Kickstarters were Trudvang Legends and Zombicide Undead or Alive – also hovering around the ten mark, but hopefully getting a good chunk more table time this year.
A Year of War!
Towards the end of 2021, I took the inevitable and, perhaps surprisingly delayed, step for a board-gamer and lapsed Wargamer living in Nottingham, and played my first game of Warhammer – specifically Age of Sigmar (their recent-ish update on their version of classic fantasy).
2022 saw me take that theme and run with it, playing more Age of Sigmar, and also getting into Warcry (the Age of Sigmar skirmish game), Warhammer Quest (discontinued solo/co-op cardgame from FFG), and even a session of the Warhammer Fantasy RPG.
I suspect that for 2023, it will be more of a focus on Warcry – 45 minutes to an hour is a lot more feasible to fit into the week than a game which can last 3-4 hours, and probably a bit more Warhammer Quest. There was even a brief moment when I figured out how to play the game well, and won a Store Championship! (it was definitely a fluke, and was not repeated).
My attempt to stay rooted in the Fantasy era took a blow at Christmas when a friend bought me a stained glass tank, the obvious gateway drug for a man who loves weird cool machines, and was supposedly trying not to buy in to more eras and rule-systems. I have yet to decide whether my end-goal here is a full 40k army, a Kill Team squad (Kill Team being the 40k-era equivalent to Warcry), or just some pretty tanks sat on my shelf.
Every year I like to run a few gaming challenges. I’ve reached the point where a generic 10×10 challenge (play 10 games 10 times) is fairly pointless – last year there were 34 games that got played 10 times, and the top 10 were all played more than 20 times – but I still do a few others. First up was the Hardcore Multiplayer 10×10 Challenge – so Hardcore means that I had to specify the 10 games in advance, and multiplayer speaks for itself. The list for 2022 was as follows: Aeon’s End, Arkham LCG, Cthulhu: Death May Die, Dragomino, Journeys in Middle Earth, LotR LCG, Marvel Champions, Marvel United, Too Many Bones, Zombicide. I wrapped this up in October with the 10th play of Journeys in Middle Earth, which was definitely the game which struggled the most, and has been cut from the 2023 list (see below) but generally speaking all of these got played plenty.
A bit more of a stretch was the 10×10 Solo Challenge. For this one, I certainly didn’t specify the games in advance, and it was wrapped up at the 11th hour: 4 games of Memoir 44 in December making it the last game across the line. The others (in order that they reached 10 plays) were Marvel Champions, Roll Player, Carcassonne, Marvel United, Cartographers, Lord of the Rings, Dominion, Cloudspire, Sentinels of the Multiverse. Of these, Sentinels of the Multiverse was new, and Roll Player was new last Christmas, and barely played prior to 2022. Most of the others are games that have been around a long time and I’d imagine that a 2023 solo list in 12 months’ time would feature a lot of very similar titles.
The most unpredictable of the challenges is always going to be the New games one. Whilst there were a few games which reached 10 plays in next-to-no-time, including a playtest project that I’m just referring to on here as WW, The Crew, and Massive Darkness 2, getting everything else up to 10 proved a stretch, and it was after Christmas before I managed to get the last few games wrapped up. This wasn’t strictly a 10×10 challenge, more of a “5×5, then let’s see what happens” as I don’t want to commit myself to buying games if there’s a chance that nothing comes along which grabs me. Having got that close though, I wanted to round things off.
I’m going to keep things more-or-less the same for 2023. A 10×10 Hardcore, multiplayer-only challenge, and a solo 10×10(?) challenge, and a let’s-just-see-how-many New games challenge.
For the hardcore challenge, the line-up is fairly familiar:
Cthulhu: Death May Die
Massive Darkness 2
Mists Over Carcassonne
Too Many Bones
Zombicide: Undead or Alive
Massive Darkness 2 and Mists Over Carcassonne are the 2 new games here, pushing out Journeys in Middle Earth (because I thought it would get played more) and Dragomino (because I forgot that it was in last year’s challenge, and needed to finalise the list in a hurry, to ensure that all the plays happening in 2023 got counted). As in previous years, I’ve left out RPGs, and only gone for single-iterations of the same game – so no double-counting Marvel United and Marvel United X-Men separately. I’ve also brought in Undead or Alive to replace Fantasy as the Zombicide option – Marvel Zombies should easily make it to 10 plays, assuming it arrives in early Summer as forecast, but I’ve learned from experience not to make promises to play games that haven’t been released yet (or generally that I don’t physically have a copy of in hand), as delays invariably happen.
As those who know me are aware, I don’t really like doing things by half-measures. If 2021 was the year where Too Many Bones became a big fixture on my gaming table, 2022 was the year I went overboard. I’d already backed the crowdfunding campaign for Too Many Bones: Unbreakable in November 2011, for the “all new content” option and the Pledge Manager in early 2022 saw me add The Automaton of Shale to my pledge (a 3d pop-up book which also contains new baddies and encounters).
Sadly, as the year wore on, it became increasingly apparent that the Unbreakable campaign wasn’t going to arrive until 2023 and whilst there was plenty of play left in what I had, I was itching for something to mix stuff up a bit.
Over the course of a few months in the summer, I picked up Dart (an armadillo-riding Gearlock for my wife) and the Lab Rats (a tag-team of 4 mini-gearlocks) for myself, followed by a second-hand copy of Splice & Dice via Facebook – whilst primarily a “make stuff harder” box, S&D also contains a couple of new play modes (only 1 of which I’ve really got my teeth into so far) and some new Tyrants to face. Just when I thought I was done, CTG announced “Riffle” a new character who is essentially Gambit from the X-Men, and instead of a full set of dice comes with a gold-embossed custom deck of cards. As this is a direct-from-web-store-only product that will be popping up at semi-random limited moments, I grabbed one where I could, and threw in Gasket, a Mech gearlock so that the flat shipping fee didn’t feel quite so steep, relative to the cost of the actual goods. At this point I think that I’m about 1 Gearlock and a few bags of promos short of having a complete collection, and whilst TMB was played a fair amount in 2022 (16 times/26 hours), it wasn’t really enough to justify the amount that I spent on it. Fortunately, with Riffle and Gasket arriving just before Christmas, and all the Unbreakable stuff due sometime this spring, I’m optimistic of this getting lots of play, with very limited future spend to go with it.
2022 was not a great year for the Blog: only 19 articles published, which was half of what I’d managed the previous year and, once you take out the 12 monthly round-ups, totals only 7 pieces of proper content. The only real consolation is that it’s better than I managed on my other blogs, neither of which got a single article.
I’d love to say that 2023 is going to be a revolution with a steady stream of new content, but I’ve been here before, and know that that’s just not that likely to happen. I’m going to be 40 in a couple of months, and both my job and my son are capable of single-handedly exhausting me. I certainly have ideas for more content, but it’s finding the time to turn a rough draft into a formatted post that constantly eludes me.
The last 2 years have been really rough in terms of both physical and mental health, and that inevitably takes its toll – when just getting through the day is a struggle, optional extras like board game reviews tend to get forgotten. I’m definitely looking to beat last year’s total, but beyond that we’ll have to see.
On paper, I currently have 4 active RPG campaigns – two Dungeons & Dragons (both as a DM), and two Call of Cthulhu (one as Keeper, one as a player). I played a single session of a Warhammer Fantasy game, which went well, and one-or-two-sessions-in-a-single-chaotic-afternoon of a young-person-friendly RPG called Inspirisles for three five-year-olds when went exactly as badly as you’d expect. The parents of the two children who weren’t mine periodically ask about when the next session will be, but I’m not quite done working through the trauma yet…
One of my D&D games is going pretty well, as is the Cthulhu game I’m playing in, but the other two games have been floundering a bit, after lots of scheduling issues, so these really need a good start to 2023 if they’re going to be a serious part of the future. For 2023 I want to try some more rulesets: I’m definitely going to be trying out the Avatar RPG, and I really want to see up a game using The One Ring and/or Vaesen, as well as finding a way to do something Rokugan/Legend of the Five Rings-related.
If 2022 was the year of Warhammer, I’m hoping that 2023 will be the year of Star Wars. Between the Clone Wars (definitely not Pandemic) game that I got for Christmas, and the upcoming Star Wars The Deckbuilding Game from FFG, it looks like there should be more in accessible options for gaming a long time ago in a galaxy far away than there have been historically.
2023 also has the somewhat dangerous possibility to be the year that I finally try Magic the Gathering. It’s a game that I’ve never gotten into previously, as it has the potential to be waaaaaaay too much of a time and money sink, and because opponents for 1v1 duelling games are always hard to come by. However, the fact that there’s going to be a Lord of the Rings set, and the implied potential for loads of high-quality new art feels certain to tip me over the edge.
I often go into the year thinking that there isn’t too much that I’m not planning on picking up too many new bits, but those plans don’t necessarily survive contact with reality, as more and more new things come onto my radar.
As far as the 2023 new arrivals/releases that I’ve already identified go, there should be new stuff for the various co-op LCGs as ever (official products for Marvel and Arkham, ALEP stuff for LotR), and Marvel United is about to get another big content injection – a stand-alone Spider-verse box in May will bring SP//DR, and a Season 3 “Multiverse” Kickstarter launches later this week, with a few Legacy/alternate heroes already confirmed (Ironheart, Lady Thor, Shuri Black Panther, Captain Carter) as well as an enormous Galactus (not nearly as enormous as the Marvel Zombies one) I’m also tempted by the additional stuff for HEXplore It that will be coming (the narrative campaign books are gorgeous, and the 5th wave is going to have a combination of Far Eastern and Mesoamerican creatures etc), but need to play what I already have quite a lot more before I can justify anything like that.
In terms of new games, there are two that I’ve had my eye on for a long time, but have been waiting for an expansion to make the game solo/co-op-able. Ashes: Rise of the Phoenixborn, and Doomtown: Reloaded. Doomtown I nearly backed on Kickstarter, but balked at the shipping costs, whereas for Ashes the co-op expansion – “Red Rains – The Corpse of Viros” won’t be appearing until Spring of 2023.
There could be a whole load of Kickstarters arriving this year, from a wide range of projects that stretch all the way back to 2019. At best (if everything finally turns up), I could be looking at seeing Shadows of Brimstone Adventures, Nova Aetas, Freedom Five, Earthborne Rangers, The Isofarian Guard, Too Many Bones Unbreakable, City of the Great Machine, Unsettled, Library Labyrinth, Aeon’s End: Past & Future, Marvel Zombies, 20 Strong and burncycle – that’s 10 new games, plus extra content for 3 more. Given that my games collection is currently sitting at 108 titles (that’s including the section of Ned’s games that I actually consider to be games – anything Haba, Quacks and Co, TTR Junior etc – but not the various iterations on “turn over a card at random and hope it matches your board” or snakes and ladders) that’s really straying too far into too many, so I’ll be attempting another cull sometime soon.
All-in-all, I expect another year packed full with gaming. How readily that translates into a year of blogging remains to be seen. For anyone still reading at this point, thank you – both for sticking with the blog through lean times, and for sticking with this post for the full three-and-a-half-thousand words.
If my ability to get articles out on time is suspect at the best of times, December was never going to be the best of times – family visiting, us away visiting family, the typical seasonal round of coughs and colds, and the unexpected wildcard of emergency dental work all made blogging a struggle.
That said, it was still a pretty good month for gaming – let’s take a look at the highlights.
It was a bumper Christmas for new arrivals – not so much in the expansion department, but in terms of brand-new games: Mists Over Carcassonne, Star Wars: The Clone Wars, The Crew, and Celestia.
Mists Over Carcassonne was an instant hit – it’s cooperative, very quick, and really quite challenging, meaning that we could easily lose 2 or 3 games in the space of half-an-hour or so. We’ve really not had a great deal of meaningful success with it – beaten Level 1 a few times, and failed at Level 2 on a couple of occasions, with anything beyond that being off in the distance for now.
Celestia was a bit of a weird one – definitely not a game that had really been on my radar, it found its way into our house, after the following conversation with my 5 year-old son:
“So, what do you want to get mummy for Christmas? A Book? Some music? Some Earrings?”
“What sort of game?”
“A grown-up game with a helicopter”
Now, Celestia doesn’t technically have a helicopter, but it does have a flying machine, and it seemed the best fit, based on the suggestions I got when sharing my dilemma on Facebook. We played it a couple of times 2-player, and it really wasn’t that great, but when we wheeled it out with the in-laws, it becomes a much more interesting prospect with a larger group. (Again, it’s pretty quick, at least in introductory mode, which helps).
People might remember me mentioning back in February that I’d spent a very large chunk of a weekend playing The Crew, and I decided to pick up a copy of my own. This is the Deep Sea version (rather than the space one which I’d played earlier), and apparently includes a 2-player variant, although I get the impression that it’s still at its best as a 3+ player game. Again, we managed a few hands over Christmas, although I think people were a bit tired by that point.
Getting The Clone Wars to hit the table proved to be a much more challenging undertaking: I lost the night between family trips, feeling too dead to do anything beyond watching TV, and the trip to my parents drowned in a sea of seemingly endless Mah Jong games dragging on too late in the evening to stay up and figure it out after everyone else had cleared off, I ultimately managed to play this on New Year’s Eve, just the once: enjoyable, but too early to offer many in-depth thoughts.
I wasn’t the only member of the household to get new games either. Ned picked up 3 new titles of his own – Ticket to Ride: First Journey, Quacks and Co, and something called The Muddles. As the resident Quacks fan, the junior version was definitely my idea, and I’ve been sat on this copy since just after I got to try it at UK Games Expo back in June. TTR came from some friends, and The Muddles was my wife’s discovery – it’s a fairly simple matching game from Big Potato, that leans fairly heavily on silly names and cartoon-y art. We’ve only managed a couple of plays of Ticket to Ride and Quacks so far, but he seems relatively engaged with both.
After these new arrivals, and a sudden surge of interest in Kerplunk from Ned, it was the Co-op LCGs dominating the table. We managed to finish off 2 Arkham Horror Campaigns, successfully (?) making it out of Antarctica in Edge of the Earth and even escaping Dim Carcosa in our Path to Carcosa campaign. For the new year we’ve got our first play of the new Scarlet Keys campaign planned – this will be a first time doing a blind play-through of a new campaign as a 4-player group, plus we need to finish our Dark Matter play-through and crack on with Alice in Wonderland.
In Lord of the Rings, we were reminded why we never play the Dunlending scenarios, before quickly scooping and going for the slightlyless ridiculous Trouble in Tharbad. We also got to try out the nice wooden token set that I’d got my wife for Christmas and told her to open a week or so early to ensure that they got properly appreciated in their natural habitat.
For Marvel Champions, we saw the belated arrival of the Mojo pack, and started a 2-player run-through of the mini-campaign, taking down Magog and Spiral, with just the eponymous villain to beat. This pack is an absolute blast, and the modular sets add a lot of humour – along with some terrifying spikes of difficulty – to older scenarios.
Money-wise, December was fairly chaotic: lots of bits and pieces I was shelling out for, from LCG expansions, to the pledge manager for the new season of Cthulhu: Death May Die, to a few random purchases on a bit of a whim (and Christmas, of course). The list of games which aren’t being played enough to justify the money spent on them dipped further into the red, with Trudvang Legends now having been around long enough to start counting. I’m not too worried about this one long-term, despite being seriously flawed in a few notable ways, the story and the draw-runes-from-back-and-place-on-cards mechanic are both interesting enough that this is getting a steady couple of plays a month, and I’m sure that once the second wave of content arrives, it’ll quickly be hitting the totals it needs to, if not before.
Aside from Trudvang (second behind Arkham in terms of most table-hours), there were also end-of-year sessions for both D&D campaigns, 2 slightly unexpected games of Eldritch Horror, and a bit more Zombicide: Undead or Alive – the set-ups for the various different scenarios feel a bit more varied than a lot of the earlier Zombicide games, and there are restrictions on what Survivors you can play with in each mission, which gives it a different feel, compared with our typical approach of picking a party and playing through everything with them – fortunately, the box also comes with more survivors than the previous editions did. All-in-all, it was a pretty good start/middle of the month, which almost made up for what felt like endless evenings of visiting/visited grandparents, and the inevitable slog of Mahjong.
…and the rest
I won’t say too much about gaming challenges and the like, as my plan is to be back “soon” with the 2022 year round-up. Likewise, that will be where I talk about the things I’m looking forward to in 2023, so I’ll keep this short and sweet. Happy New(ish) Year everyone!
November was a bumper month – more games played than any month this year, with a whopping 103 sessions / 77 hours, beating 2022’s previous records of 100 and 76.37 respectively. With things on that scale, it can be hard to keep track of exactly what’s been played the most, which is part of the reason I’ve started taking advantage of the funky feature on the BG Stats app which keeps track of the most-played games, by session and by hour.
It’s a helpful reminder, as I’d actually forgotten about Folklore – we finished off Dark Tales right at the start of the month, just in time for my wife to open Fall of the Spire for her birthday, and played the first game of that, before getting distracted by other things!
Let’s have a look at some of the other November highlights.
November was a good month for Arkham Horror LCG, thanks in large part to the folk at the Arkham Chronicle who got hold of a copy of the mostly-not-yet-released Standalone scenario Fortune & Folly. It’s actually 2 scenarios in 1 (although the first part is pretty short), and I managed 3 play-throughs, at 3-player, 4-player and solo, just so that we could put not 1, but 2 special episodes of The Card Game Cooperative. Our discussion of the scenario is already live, and it’s taken me so long to post this that our interview with designer and all-round LCG community legend Ian Martin won’t be far behind,
November also saw me take some crucial steps towards the most pointless of decks on my wishlist: 16-sled-dog-Charlie Kane. Normally, you can only have 2 copies of any card in an Akham deck, but Sled Dog is an exception – you can have 4, and put 2 in each ally slot. Given that Charlie has extra ally slots, there’s potential for some enjoyable nonsense as you yoink dogs out of other players’ discard piles, but you have to own enough copies of the dog to being with!
Our local-ish game shop ran a The Blob that Ate Everything event for Arkham Nights, meaning that I was able to pick up 4 extra Sled Dogs as promos, planning to run a 12-dog Charlie deck on the first weekend of December when our other local-ish game shop runs their Blob event. It turns out that Blob is actually a time when having stupid numbers of dogs is a really good thing – an enemy which sits in play for 1 round, can take upto 15 damage, but has a fight value of X (where X is the damage already sustained) typically gets harder and harder to fight … UNLESS you can do 15 damage in a single hit! – even without the perfect combo, being able to get to 8 or 10 is still pretty fantastic – being able to come in with 10 dogs for +10 skill and 10 damage on a 5-difficulty combat test is just what the doctor ordered.
Marvel Champions, Marvel United and Carcassonne all had double-figures of plays in November. I absolutely love the solo version of Carcassonne that was released online in 2020, and it’s taken the game from 17 plays across 2015-19 to an average of just over 50 per year since: games are short, typically less than 10 minutes, so it’s pretty easy to rack up a high number of them. I’m hoping to acquire Mists over Carcassonne for Christmas – a cooperative twist on the game, so it will be interesting to see what impact that has on the solo puzzle.
For Marvel Champions, I finally got a proper go at the X-Men, absolutely blasting through the Mutant Genesis campaign box with Storm’s pre-con, and trying a few more scenarios with Wolverine. Next up, I definitely need to start actually deck-building with the mutants – Shadowcat and Colossus seem like the ones who’d benefit the most from a different approach (I’m really not a fan of the Colossus pre-con in particular, so I’ll hopefully get the time to explore that soon.
In (and out of) the Red
My big list of “games that aren’t really value for money” took a bit of a backward step this month, as both the Oathsworn and HEXplore It Kickstarters have been around long enough to start being counted. It’s been a mega-busy month at work for my wife, and something with that level of crunch (or sheer length) just isn’t very appealing right now. I did break Oathsworn out for a solo game, replaying an old encounter to refresh myself on the combat mechanics, and I might well do that again before seeing if we can get it back to the table to actually progress the campaign before the end of the year.
Despite the big new entries in the negative column, I did make some good progress on games that were already there. After a year and a half, the original Marvel United has finally made it to £5/hour. It’s not a game that I was worried about – if you factor in either the MANY hours I’ve spent painting it, or the time spent playing Marvel United with others, then we reached this point a long time ago, but it’s nice to have got there even by the more conservative estimate. Marvel United X-Men by contrast still has a long way to go (again, things look pretty good if I include painting time), and given that it’s having to compete/mix with its elder sibling it will be a long while yet.
Massive Darkness 2 also made a comeback after a slightly quieter couple of months once we finished our initial playthrough of the core box scenarios and Rainbow Crossing – we’re currently playing through the prequel campaign: the scenarios from the original game re-done for the new ruleset, and all the Kickstarter Enemies – we’ve also mixed in the Necromancer Hero from the MD2 Kickstarter, and are controlling 2 heroes each instead of 1. It’s good fun, and gives the game a nice varied feel, but it does also mean that it’s a bit more to set up and process.
Spreading myself too thin?
Having noted in recent months that I was still some way from hitting 10×10 solo games because I have lots of games played a handful of times rather than a solid core of 10, I did the only sensible thing, and branched out even more! 6 games played solo in November that had previously not been on the solo sheet, plus taking Arkham Horror LCG from 1 up to 3 1-player games. Biggest innovation here was playing Zombicide Black Plague solo – I did a bit of this waaaay back in 2016 when I first got the game and was learning the rules, but hadn’t done so in ages, until I spotted that CMON had released a set of solo scenarios on their website. Still lots of fun, and plenty of challenge to be found.
All-in-all, there’s still a fair chance that I hit 10×10 solo, but I don’t want to be holding myself over a barrel to do it.
For my other challenge: 10 plays of 10 different new games, I made a bit of progress – 3 more sessions of Zombicide: Undead or Alive took that to 7, and I see no reason why that shouldn’t get to 10 before the December is up. That said, 85/100 is quite low to be this late in the year, so I’ll have to see whether this challenge actually gets completed – if I can make it to another Warcry session, then I’ll probably manage it, but if not, I can see myself falling short, unless I decide to really binge something new/not-that-heavily-played-yet.
Beyond Arkham LCG, November was a surprisingly good month for all things Mythos.
My wife and I managed to synchronise a day off work for her birthday which saw Eldritch Horror get one of its rare run-outs, we continued our Call of Cthulhu RPG Masks of Nyarlathotep campaign, tried the second of the 3 previously-unplayed Death May Die scenarios, and in perhaps the most surprising twist, introduced my mother-in-law to Mansions of Madness! She ended up coming to stay in order to provide some emergency day-time childcare, and after a couple of games of Pandemic Cthulhu (which she had played before) on the first night, we decided to push things a bit further with our favourite app-sorted mystery game. As I think I mentioned in October, Mansions has fallen a long way down our most-played charts since FFG stopped putting out new content, as the scenarios can get a little stale after a while, and whilst there are some very good fan-made ones on Valkyrie, there are also some fairly poor ones or (more-commonly) just a lot where the minor typos that slipped through proof-reading really break the immersion. Introducing the game to a new player is a nice way to revisit the old scenarios with a fresh twist, and give the game a well-deserved run-out.
December is just around the corner, and I’m expecting a fair few new goodies from Santa (and by Santa, I mostly mean “ordering them myself from the OLGS and then handing them to my wife to wrap”) [in case there’s any lack of clarity, this is because I am a massive pain to buy presents for, rather than any lack of effort on her part]. Whether much of the new stuff will get played in the 6 days between Christmas and year’s end remains to be seen – I may well repeat the tactic of previous years, and treat anything gained from Christmas onwards as “new” for the following year’s spreadsheets.
Ned’s games collection should similarly be being expanded – I’ve had a copy of Quacks and Co sat on the side for him for ages, with Ticket To Ride: My First Journey potentially joining it.
Beyond that, December should have plenty of Arkham, as we look to wrap up some campaigns, more RPGs, and then the inevitable slew of family-friendly stuff as we spend time with grandparents.
With the un-played pile way too big for this late in the year, the size of my collection pushing too far into triple figures, and the average time between plays for games getting ever higher, I decided that it was time to start taking series efforts to thin the herd.
I did a big sales post at the start of October, and met with mixed success.
Nemesis Lockdown and Runebound 3rd edition both sold almost immediately. In both cases, I think I under-priced fairly badly, and could easily have made another £50 quid between the two items – I won’t lose any sleep over the money, but I do wish that people didn’t feel the need to post comments on Facebook along the lines of “wow, a week ago, I missed the deal of the century on Runebound.”
Nemesis is a game I’ve played a reasonable number of times since it arrived at the start of the year, but my wife had made it fairly clear that she wasn’t particularly interested in trying it, and it’s both long and a table-hog. If I’d been a bit more ambitious, I could probably have made a profit on this, but at least as it is, I more than covered the shortfall.
Runebound is a game that I nearly sold a few years back, but my wife urged me to keep it. In the 24ish months since, it’s been played once, and we had a miserable time. It’s certainly not a bad game, but given how little it gets played, and how in-demand it is, it felt daft to keep hold of it.
D-Day Dice and Pandemic Rising Tide were both games that I got ‘free’ (DDD was store credit, PRT was a review). Rising Tide is certainly an interesting twist on the Pandemic mechanic, but realistically it’s behind original, Iberia and Cthulhu to actually get played, so it felt worth moving on. D-Day Dice is one that I’d put solidly in the category of “fine” but it was only ever getting played solo, and there’s enough competition for that time/brain-space. Lastly, Mysterium Park was a game we’d bought in an attempt to make Mysterium work with 2, after giving up on previous attempts to play it remotely via Zoom etc – it never really worked, and this one was just gathering dust.
The rest of the sale post didn’t get as much traction, so I need to re-list with the sold items removed from the picture to see whether it attracts any more offers this time.
Unusually for a CMON Kickstarter, the game was available for the public to demo less than a week later at Essenspiel and the early reports were really positive. Despite being a stand-alone game, this new box is fully modular and inter-compatible with the original, offering new Ancient Ones, scenarios, investigators and the like. It also adds an optional Relics module which can be added to any scenario to make it a little easier, and Hidden Monsters which likewise bolt on to any scenario to increase the difficulty (thankfully, CMON very quickly added the cards to make this mechanic backwards compatible, ensuring that I can use the monsters I already have for this). So far it’s been a pretty successful campaign, but I’m really hoping that we can get at least one much Ancient One unlocked via stretch-goals and/or a season 4 add-on with another half-dozen episodes included in the week-or-so left on the campaign.
Just because of the general risks that seem to surround CMON Kickstarters and shipping costs right now, I’ve only pledged for $1, and they seem to be going a bit left-field with their optional buys this time around (pet cat anyone?) but I suspect I’ll end up getting most of what’s offered, at least in terms of actual gameplay.
In case October wasn’t making enough demands on my wallet, I’ve also backed Chip Theory’s campaign for “20 Strong” a new solo-only dice game, which features modular decks for new IP “Solar Sentinels” as well as more familiar settings Too Many Bones and Hoplomachus. By the standards of both Chip Theory and modern-day Kickstarters more generally, this one is fairly reasonably priced at $65 all-in, for the base game, 2 expansion decks, and free shipping. As the campaign doesn’t end until November, that’s when it will find its way onto the spreadsheet, but the decision is more-or-less made already.
Buying and selling aside, I did actually manage to play some games this month. Better late than never, let’s take a look.
CMON announced wit the DMD reveal that they were wanting to align the KS with “spooky season” and the October nights drawing in certainly felt like a good excuse to swing things back towards the horror side of the collection.
Mansions of Madness is a game where I think I own all of the official content, fully painted and with the monsters on custom bases. It got played A LOT back in the day, but has fallen out of favour the past few years, as they’ve stopped releasing new scenarios, and the replay value is definitely diminished when you get over-familiar with what any given scenario is asking of you. There is a rich mine of fan-made content out there, but identifying the best bits can be a bit tricky, and the mental overhead has put me off. First play of the year, hopefully we’ll beat last year’s 2 sessions by the end of December.
One game which is never going to be getting much past 3 or 4 plays a year is Unfathomable – 4-6 players and 4 hours long will do that to a game. Still, we managed our third session of the year, taking advantage of Ned being at his grandparents (and thus knowing that we weren’t going to have to get up at 6am on a Saturday!)
There was a moment of mild panic that I might have made a mistake in inviting our friends over to play a week before their wedding – the Bride-to-be and I ended up as the Deep Ones, and we successfully sank the ship, drowning all the humans, but not before the groom reminded her loudly “we’re not married yet, you know!” (fortunately, we went to the Wedding a week later, and can confirm that it all went off without any soap-opera-style drama).
I’ve found myself strangely unmoved by the release of the Scarlet Keys investigator expansion for Arkham Horror, yet to play any of the investigators, and having barely incorporated any of the player cards into decks. That said, we did still get a few games in this month: right at the start of October we played an Epic Multiplayer session of Machinations Through Time, and we also continued our Edge of the Earth campaign, and even started up a new 2-player campaign at home. My wife and I are taking parallel Wendy and parallel Roland through the fan-made campaign Dark Matter – only 2 sessions in, but enjoying the fresh scenarios to face. (I even built Roland a deck focused around one of the new customisable cards, spent a big chunk of XP on it … and then completely failed to draw either copy at any point across the 2 scenarios we played…)
It was a strong month for all the LCGs, with Marvel Champions and Lord of the Rings both getting played 10 times. For Lord of the Rings, I started the month trying to defeat some of the quests from Oaths of the Rohirrim that I hadn’t previously managed, then the last week or so of October saw the game undergoing a sudden resurgence as I finally got round to figuring out Dragn Cards, an online platform that allows me to play the game without spending a million hours finding, sleeving, and shuffling individual cards. Great fun, but somewhat perilous for my long-term productivity when trying to get anything done on the computer…
For Marvel Champions, there was a good amount of play, but somewhat surprisingly, I didn’t find myself as gripped by the X-Men release as much as I’d thought I would be. Kitty Pryde is a strong contender for my all-time favourite comic character, but trying to play through the scenarios with her and Colossus in their pre-con forms brought us crashing back down to earth with a bump, as neither really has any way to remove threat reliably. I need to get some new decks built and take another run at things here.
Although not an LCG, Marvel United is still hitting the table – The Fantastic Four were the most recent bunch to get painted up, taking on Dr Doom and his Doombots, and I’ve had a few fun games with them – they seem decent at a 2-hero count, but their team card suggests that they could get ridiculously strong in 3 or 4-player with an all F4 team. I am overdue a She-Hulk/Daredevil team-up though…
This town ain’t big enough for the Undead.
My big October arrival was the Zombicide: Undead or Alive kickstarter. It came towards the end of the month, so we were only able to get so far into it, but first impressions are good.
This is our 3 non-compatible iteration of Zombicide, following Medieval/Fantasy and Space (which I typically refer to as Xenocide on here), set to be joined by a 4th sometime in 2023 when Marvel Zombies arrives. 3 big boxes plus a selection of smaller ones, it’s another chunky outlay in terms of cash, shelf-space, and implied time to play.
One of the big appeals for me, was the fact that the Gears and Guns expansion, as well as giving everything a steampunk twist, adds a campaign mode in to Zombicide. As “Modern” in its various forms is a type of Zombicide that we’ve always avoided, we’ve never had a chance to string the scenarios together in a meaningful way like this, so I really like the idea of being able to get that overarching campaign that we enjoy, but attached to a game that doesn’t get bogged down under it’s own weight mechanically.
There are other gameplay innovations – Survivors being sub-defined by class, no doors, a different approach to zombie spawns, a great big steam-train, and even horses. There’s definitely more that I think they could have done with the concept, but all-in-all, it felt worth getting involved in.
On top of that, the minis for this game look really nice. When Shadows of Brimstone returns to prominence (probably next year when we should finally get some of the Adventures content) I can definitely see myself taking minis from this to use in place of the often somewhat lacklustre ones coming from Flying Frog.
It is still a lot of additional content for a game that 1) I already have multiple versions of, and 2) is a long way from the 2016-18 period when it was comfortably our most-played game 3 years running. That said, if I combine times for the 3 different versions, it still finds its way into 4th play for 2022, behind Marvel Champions, Arkham Horror, and Dungeons & Dragons, which is still not too shabby. I’m still not 100% that even rocking-chair Bernie would have been enough to tempt me if I had known that Marvel Zombies would be coming a little over a year later, but I don’t have any major regrets about my purchase.
October was a good month money-wise: as already noted, I sold several games, and the only thing I spent cash on was a new Arkham expansion. Additionally, most of the places I have games looking like bad value for money all saw leaps in the right direction. November is likely to lurch to the other extreme, with the possibility of a triple-release for Marvel Champions, 2 or 3 crowd-funding campaigns concluding (Death May Die, 20 Strong), and another couple wrapping up their Pledge Managers, forcing me to actually commit to decisions on a few games that I’ve been deliberating on (Unsettled, burncycle).
I mentioned last time out that both the solo and the new challenges were lagging a bit, but thankfully October saw a few free evenings over half-term meant that I was able to make some good progress here.
Sentinels of the Multiverse has hit 10 sessions, 9 of them solo, and I added a few more plays of Warhammer Quest as well. 1 more and 3 more games of these two titles respectively would be enough to finish off the solo challenge.
In terms of the new games challenge, there’s still a bit more of a way to go, if 10×10 is the ultimate goal (this isn’t necessarily the case, but I do like a nice round number).
82/100 isn’t bad, but when you factor in one of those games being Warcry, which I can only play if I make it down to the FLGS, and Library Labyrinth being a game I no longer have access to, then there’s still a bit of work to go if I’m going to manage to have played 10 new games 10 times.
In terms of games that I DO still have access to, Flourish continues to make small increments of progress, whilst Trudvang Legends and Zombicide: Undead or Alive have both hit the ground running – I might well not get to 10 plays of 10 new games this year, but should hopefully be able to manage at least 7×7 or 8×8.
Aside from Marvel Champions, the only “new” arrival I’m expecting for November is my wife’s birthday present, and I’m not going to mention it here in case she breaks the habit of a lifetime and reads this article. I’m hoping that there will be an Arkham Nights event or 2 that I can make it along to, (need to get some promo sled dogs…) but otherwise there’s nothing out of the ordinary planned. That’s not a worry, as there’s plenty of stuff that I’ve been meaning to play and haven’t quite managed in recent weeks and months, so hopefully I’ll be able to get a bit more done there.
August is always a bit of a strange time, and that was magnified this year as we dealt with having a school-age child in the house, and the impact that that has on work, holidays and the like.
One of the most striking things about this August was just how much time we spent away – a full week in a no-internet cabin on a holiday site with my parents, plus various nights away at both my parents and my in-laws. Probably the most significant consequence of that, was that I have now clocked up over 10 sessions of Mah Jong, for over 12 hours of table-time – at this point it’s my 16th-most-played game of the year which is impressive(?) for something I don’t even enjoy all that much.
The holiday also saw a return for other titles that hadn’t been played in a fair while – Mapominoes and Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective had both been gathering dust for well over a year and whilst Codenames Duet did get its first run-out in July, it saw a lot more playtime in August.
Swords are of use here…
I’ve mentioned in the past the fact that I have a fairly large Sword & Sorcery: Ancient Chronicles collection from the 2018 Kickstarter, and that thanks to somewhat unwieldy rulebooks etc, it was still sitting on a huge deficit, more than a year after I’d received it.
August was the point when I, somewhat tentatively, decide to introduce it to my wife and was completely blown away by the reception it got. Admittedly I’ve got the rules reasonably well down by now, which helps things run smoothly, and we were definitely playing on the easiest of settings, but taking advantage of some bank holiday grandparent-child-care, we played 3 times in 2 days, clocking up about 5 hours, and defeating the first 3 quests pretty handily.
All of the Co-op LCGs got played in August. For Lord of the Rings, we introduced a friend to the game with Passage Through Mirkwood, whilst my wife and I started a run against the Shadow in the East Box (on Easy, obviously). We managed to get through The River Running at the first attempt, and eventually beat Danger in Dorwinion as well – it’s a very interesting quest that feels like a revised version of the Steward’s Fear, in terms of needing to explore locations to make progress, and coming up against a randomised plot and villain each time. We needed a bit of luck with the randomised elements to make it through this.
For Marvel Champions, my wife and I bear The Hood, but most of my games were continuing solo runs of the various Sinsiter Motives Heroes and villains (plus War Machine, who is technically part of the previous cycle, but arrived much later). I’m still trying to find a War Machine or Spider-Ham deck that I’m really happy with for true solo, but Nova, Ironheart and SP//DR are great in pretty-much whichever aspect they find themselves.
For Arkham Horror, we continued our 4-player Edge of the Earth campaign, and our 3-player Carcosa campaign. We recently realised a fairly major error that we made earlier in the campaign for Edge, but are way too far gone to correct it. Calvin and Patrice are doing most of the heavy lifting here, with Nathaniel constantly poised just waiting for an enemy to appear (when they do, it’s always 2 at once) whilst I contemplate the folly of having played Forced Learning in a campaign with Tekeli-li.
My deck is functioning much better in Path to Carcosa, possibly because I net-decked (at least the starting point). As a party we still lack firepower when it comes to combat – Rita with the Ornate Bow is about the extent of our ability to kill things unless Sefina happens to draw the right event. I haven’t even bothered including Shrivelling in my Daisy deck. 2 scenarios left on this one (or just the 1 if we do really badly…)
RPG Call back
It had been absolutely months since our Call of Cthulhu group managed to get together, mostly down to one of the players getting a new job, which massively curtailed his evening availability, but we took advantage of the summer lull to resume things. As ever, the group are bumbling their way around Berlin obsessing over minor details, and missing big hooks. Right now, they’ve got about 48 hours to prevent the end of the world, so it will be interesting to see how that works out.
Hopefully in September I’ll be doing the unthinkable and actually playing an RPG for the first time in 2 years, as my wife and I have signed up for a Masks or Nyarlathotep campaign (go big or go home, right?) so I’m looking forward to that.
I used my time away on holiday to read through some of the other RPG books that I have around – realistically I’m not going to have the time or the players to run an actual Adventures in Rokugan game, but I definitely want to incorporate a few of these ideas elsewhere (it’s more-or-less a D&D 5e book, but with its own classes and a magic-replacement system), and The One Ring is definitely on my long-term list, it just might not be this year.
Not a whole lot to report on the Challenges front. Lord of the Rings now has more than 10 multiplayer games for the year, so it’s just Too Many Bones and Journeys in Middle Earth needed to finish off here – 95/100.
Another session of Sentinels of the Multiverse put me at 6×6 for new games (I’m no longer counting Marvel United X-Men as “new”) and I also added another session apiece of Nemesis and Flourish, along with 5 games of the brand new Karuba Junior. This is definitely one of Ned’s games rather than mine, and only takes 5 minutes tops, but seems to have gone down well.
In the solo challenge, the most discernible progress was Dominion jumping from 4 to 8 sessions, and I’m sure that I’ll have this up to 10 pretty quickly. The last 4 games to complete the solo 10×10 are still decidedly in flux. I’m sure that Lord of the Rings LCG will be one of them, but the jury’s still out on the other 3.
August was definitely not a cheap month, as I ended up buying a fair few unexpected bits and pieces. I had shipping to pay for Aeon’s End: Past & Future, plus putting in a pre-order for the hefty burst of Marvel Champions Mutant content due around the end of September.
I also picked up a second-hand Dominion expansion, Messiah Complex for Marvel Legendary, and some bits for Too Many Bones to tide me over in the wake of the revelation that Unbreakable is likely to be making its appearance very late in 2022, if it even manages to arrive this year at all. Dominion is one of the ‘modern’ board games that I’ve owned the longest, and I’ve always had a definite fondness for it, but my wife really isn’t much of a fan, meaning that 99% of what I play today is a homebrewed solo/co-op version. Still, even within those limited parameters, it’s nice to refresh the card-pool, and my collection hadn’t been added to in several years (I think it might have been 2016, but that feels crazy).
Despite the outlay, my overall totals of games failing to hit the £5/hour mark still saw a noticeable improvement, thanks to all those hours of Sword & Sorcery, plus a game of Nemesis and a bit more Marvel United.
Trudvang Legends was the big August arrival not to get played, one half of a much-delayed 2019 Kickstarter, so getting that to the table is a priority for September, along with the various expansions mentioned above, most of which I’ve only started to explore. We have an Arkham LCG event due early September as well, so looking forward to that, and it would be nice to try to finish off the 10×10 Hardcore challenge, but other than that I’m not expecting many huge changes – October looks set to be a month with far more new things hitting the table.
Another month has been and gone. (there was supposed to be a longer intro here, but I hit “publish” without writing it, so let’s just cut to the chase…)
Marvel Champions got played no less than 20 times in May, making it 2022’s first game to smash 50 plays, and putting it well ahead of Marvel United, which had a rather more modest 5 sessions, and remains in second-place on 44. Both the Nova and Ironheart packs arrived this month, and the pre-con decks are both really strong, so I’ve run them up against a few different scenarios, and am really looking forward to a 4-player, 4 copies of “Go For Champions” game sometime soon. These packs also have a bit of a twist by including a new modular set in the back, rather than just some off-aspect cards. – Armadillo and ZZzax are both fairly obscure as Marvel Villains go, but they bring some nice variety, which is always appreciated.
Whilst Marvel United didn’t get a huge amount of play, there was the entertaining if slightly unlikely moment where I ended up playing a game of it with my parents (who normally stick very firmly to Mah Jong or Scrabble), after Ned got bored and wandered off mid-game [the downtime in a 4-player session is a bit too much for this particular somewhat-distractible 5 year-old]. I also got the first batch of Marvel United X-Men figures painted, having finished up everything from the original Kickstarter.
There were also 5 games for Arkham Horror, as we picked up a number of campaigns that had fallen a little bit by the wayside. In our 3-player Path to Carcosa game, we went to the King in Yellow’s cast after party in The Last King, before heading to the archives of Arkham’s Historical Society in Echoes of the Past. The first game was pretty challenging, as out party (Daisy, Rita, Sefina) struggles a bit for combat, relying on Sefina’s events, or Rita getting the Ornate Bow, which she had, but then lost to Corrosion, just as we found ourselves under attack from a brace of Roach Swarms at the highest-shroud location in the game (5). Fortunately, we managed to run away in time.
In our Return to The Circle Undone game, we took a slight detour for Parallel Agnes to try out Bad Blood (I’ve owned this scenario for a while, but this is my first campaign with Agnes since getting it), followed by Return to the Secret Name and Return to Wages of Sin. Trish and Agnes are another pair who struggle for consistent damage, so we’ve had a few sticky moments, but this felt like a pretty successful run of games, despite a fairly low amount of XP gathered.
…and not much in the Middle.
Only a single game of Lord of the Rings LCG in May, as a friend and I took on the Massing at Osgiliath. On the plus side, it was a highly entertaining game, as it was the first time I’d seen him using the Bond of Friendship Simpsons-Hobbits deck that I had printed for him for Christmas. (I take no credit for the actual creation of the cards, which was done by everyone’s favourite LotR-playing bear, Beorn).
The lack of Rings LCG play was at least slightly alleviated by the welcome return of our Journeys in Middle Earth campaign – there was even a moment of rescue from the new table after my wife said “sure, let’s start the next scenario” only to be basically falling asleep 15 minutes later. On went the dining-table leaves, and the game was able to remain mostly-set-up and protected from the grabbing hands of an inquisitive 5 year-old until the following day.
In the Dungeons?
May also saw a bit more D&D than I’ve managed in a little while, with 2 games for each of my campaigns. In the Underdark, the Abyss crew are in Gracklestugh, subduing mad giants and exploring mysterious tunnels. The group recently lost their Cleric, as the player has just had a baby, leaving the true Neutral Alchemist as the only restraining influence on the Warlock and the Bardbarian, both of whom could fairly be described as having a Chaotic-Chaotic alignment. They’re having a lot of fun, but are probably as likely to start a war as save The Underdark (and ultimately the entire material plane) from Demon Annihilaton.
Back in Waterdeep, things remain far more chilled, as the party happily potter around the city and focus on getting the Tavern ready to open. The main discovery this month was that the players will happily worm their way out of a direct request from the Blackstaff (official senior wizard of the city) as they have a prior appointment in Barovia, but will happily put that same engagement on hold indefinitely when they find out that a nearby tavern is trying to rip off their signature “cake tapas.” Stay tuned to future reports to find out whether they decide to go and fight Strahd, in hope of rescuing their Dhampir friend, or get involved in baking battle. It could easily go either way…
May was a strong month for the various gaming challenges. In the hardcore challenge, Aeon’s End, Dragomino, Marvel Champions, and Zombicide all made it up to 10 multiplayer games each (Champions in particular had smashed past this number months ago if you include solo). Journeys in Middle Earth and Too Many Bones both made this to 5 plays – keeping steady on an average of 1 per month, and ahead of the curve in terms of reaching 10 by the end of the year. Up to 81/100, with just 4 games needing 4 or 5 sessions each to reach 10×10.
There wasn’t nearly as much movement on the New games challenge, but Nemesis shifted from 2 to 4 plays, as I realised that I’d been making at least 1 fundamental rules error, along with a significant tactical mistake – correcting these has made the game a lot more fun, and will hopefully lead to a fair bit more play. Yet to reach that moment of everything starting to ‘click’ is The Everrain, which I played once, and ended up very frustrated with a poor rulebook and some thoroughly obfuscating iconography. Hopefully in time this will start to make a bit more sense.
For my solo 10×10 Challenge, Cartographers became the 5th game to hit 10 plays, whilst Cloudspire and Dominion both progressed as well. This is still a bit behind the multiplayer challenge (74/100), and as I’ve mentioned a few times, I have a small set of solo games that I play a lot, but beyond these, it’s much more a case of playing many things a few times, rather than necessarily 10 game 10 times. Still, over half the year to go, so we’ll see how this unfolds.
May was a pretty expensive month, as I wrapped up the Pledge Manager for Too Many Bones: Unbreakable, as well as having stuff to buy for the LCGs (Nova & Ironheart for Champions, Parallel Wendy for Arkham). The fact that Nemesis has been around since January meant that I started counting it for games that are still short of the £5/hour mark, which meant that the overall total moved further into the red, as the Nemesis shortfall is greater than the hours spent on the other games already in that category (Roll Player, Marvel United, Cloudspire, Sword & Sorcery).
Next up is June, which is always a big month for gaming, as it’s when UK Games Expo happens. I’m working the whole show again, so will be reporting back soon of everything that happens there.
In terms of new bits and pieces, aside from Expo, I’m not quite sure whether I’m expecting anything or not! There are definitely a few more Kickstarters predicting “early summer” or something equally nebulous, so I won’t rule them out, but July is probably more likely for any or all of Oathsworn, HEXplore It, or The Librarians.
March has been and gone, 22 is already ¼ done! (somewhat alarming when you consider that only 53% of my games have actually been played this year). It was another slog of a month, from a Real Life perspective, but I did at least get a fair number of games played.
Going Down With the Ship
The combination of “it’s nearly my birthday” and “we’re actually allowed people in the house, unlike the end of March for the last 2 years” gave us cause to round some people up for another game of Unfathomable. Aside from some serious twitching on my part as a couple of the more casual gamers got their drinks/snacks a bit too close to the game board, this was a great time.
Full 6-player, with a Cultist as well as 2 Deep One Hybrids, we managed to reach Boston with our supplies relatively intact, despite the turn where my wife (who wasn’t a traitor) accidentally guilt-tripped everyone into massively over-committing to a test in order to avoid her dog being … sent to a farm in the country. There was plenty of back-and-forth, and much suspicion, which was only fuelled even-more by two different players accidentally committing a card of the wrong colour to a skill check (apparently Red and Orange are too similar, and nobody was able to pick up on the subtle difference between a picture of a pair of hands, and a picture of a torso with flexing arms).
Unfathomable is never going to be a game that gets played lots – it really needs 4-6 players, and it’s LONG (our game was 3 hours 40, finishing at nearly midnight the night the clocks went forward, which is poor planning when you realise that 5/6 of us have children of 5 or under in our houses). That said, it’s generally a blast when we play, and even if the £/hour for me alone is still hovering fractionally above £5, the hours per player are brilliant.
It was a good month for the LCGs although, in a slightly unusual twist, Arkham Horror was the least-played of the 3, just 2 sessions as we introduced some friends to The Gathering, and my wife and I started up our Return to the Circle Undone. Lord of the Rings was noticeably busier: I played 4 solo games, testing out the new Dark of Mirkwood pack, whilst our 2-player Saga campaign reached Rivendell with Flight to the Ford.
But it was Marvel Champions that dominated the month – no fewer than 15 games as I tried to get caught up on un-played combos before the Sinister Motives box lands. I was briefly within 1 Hero/Aspect combination of a 100% record (Vison Leadership being the only one missing), before War Machine and The Hood finally arrived – The Hood pack has an absolute ton of content for something so small: I’ve used a handful of the modular sets already, but have yet to try the scenario itself, or Standard II, (a difficulty-increase for the generic set which goes in every game). When the Sinister Motives campaign box arrives, some time in April, that’s going to be another enormous number of new possible combinations, as I go from 29 Heroes x 23 Villains to 31 Heroes x 28 Villains!
2022’s Gaming Challenges are coming along well. For the Hardcore challenge, every game has been played at least 3 times in 3 months, so that’s some steady progress, and with everything averaging at least once per month, that should see everything wrapped up by October (if not before). Arkham LCG became the second game to hit 10 multiplayer sessions, whilst Zombicide and Dragomino both jumped up to 8. 62/100
Taking out the Multiplayer and Hardcore requirements, I’m very nearly there for a general “Play 10 Games 10 Times” – Roll Player, Arkham LCG, Carcassonne, and an upcoming project that I’ll just refer to as WW all hit 10 plays this month, LotR LCG and Massive Darkness 2 are on 9, Zombicide on 8: 96/100
Solo is definitely a bit further back than the “all” or “multiplayer” categories. Marvel Champions, Roll Player, and Carcassonne all hit 10 this month, and Marvel United leapt up to 7, having been mostly multi-player up until now, but other than that, things are generally a fair way behind – lots of games played once or twice, rather than a hardcore of 10ish.
Despite a big arrival, there wasn’t that much in terms of “new” games this month: depending on whether I count Marvel United X-Men as its own thing or part of the existing MU, I could argue a case for having completed the 5×5, but Nemesis remains on only 2 plays.
3 months so far this year, and 3 big Kickstarter deliveries. Marvel United X-Men is the sequel to last year’s hugely successful Marvel United. Technically, the original Marvel United has yet to hit the magic £5/hour, based on my gaming-time alone, but it’s a game that I’d played 80-odd times in 12 months, and when I factor in either the games played by others, or the hours I’ve spent painting it, it looks pretty good.
MU:X is an even bigger project than the first, and it looks like it ups both the difficulty and the complexity. Early impressions suggest that there have been a few quality-control failures (it looks like the factory tried to take some shortcuts on the plastic box inserts, and the results are pretty messy) – fortunately, the actual miniatures seem to have arrived unscathed, but there’s noticeable damage to a few of the cardboard components – it’s not TOO terrible, but having paid 3 figures for something that’s arrived looking like it’s been kicked round the warehouse, I’m more inclined to quibble than normal. So far the word from CMON seems to be that they WON’T fix inserts as they consider them disposable, so it’ll be interesting to see what sort of response I get to my “damaged components” ticket.
I made good progress in March on a few of the various games that aren’t quite pulling their weight, but there are still 9 games overall which work out at more than £5/hour, based on how much I personally have played them. 3 of those are still very new, and Unfathomable is a mere 73p short, so not too horrendous there, but Cloudspire and Sword & Sorcery remain the big standouts in terms of “games where the play doesn’t really justify the spend.”
Within March itself, I shelled out for 3 new things – one of the parallel investigator packs for Arkham Horror LCG, and I backed 2 Kickstarters. The first was the reprint of Unsettled. This is a puzzly-looking co-op sci-fi survival game that looks really interesting, but also seem to have a fairly high complexity level, and could struggle to hit the table by virtue of being too heavy, so I’ve just gone for the entry-level pledge for now, and will need to do some proper research before the Pledge Manager before deciding whether to add any of the expansion planets (more replay value, but also means it costs more).
Last on the list was Library Labyrinth. I previewed this a few weeks back, so won’t say too much more, but I’ll be looking forward to getting hold of my copy in due course.
I want to predict too much about the future: when getting out of bed is a struggle, prolific blogging is little more than a pipe-dream. That said, there should be at least one new article up this month. I think that there will probably be a lull in the big new arrivals, with the various big Kickstarters that are outstanding probably not due until the end of spring.
New month, new glasses, one or two new games, and all-round a bright enough start, despite still being ill for a few days.
There were some big new arrivals, plenty of time for old games, and a bit of exploring some titles that have been around for a while. I also cleared out some titles that had reached their time to move on.
I only managed one game of Lord of the Rings in January, as we continued our Saga campaign, and managed to get across the Barrow Downs without being killed by Barrow-Wights, or interred in Barrows forever. I’m now a bit torn on where to go next – we’ve reached Bree, which feels like the obvious point to try out a Bree-land deck, but I’m waiting for The Glittering Caves (pack 4 of the cycle) to release before ordering The Gap of Rohan, which contains the Bree cards. Given the penalties in campaign mode for switching heroes midway through, we’ll probably just carry on with Aragorn and the Hobbits sometime in February.
We played a lot more Arkham Horror: 6 games was enough to finish off the Edge of the Earth campaign and – remarkably came out of it with the best ending. With 50xp each and remarkably little trauma, I suggested to my wife that maybe we could take the same characters into a new campaign on Hard! – she wasn’t convinced by this, but agreed that we could maybe try standard (as opposed to easy all the time).
Marvel Champions made it to 6 sessions as well – mostly this was me taking some of the heroes from the Mad Titan’s Shadow cycle back to face villains from that same box, but George and I have also started playing through MTS in campaign mode for the first time, her as Scarlet Witch, and me as Vision. Again, more to come in February.
Play the Red Skull Game!
This was the constant refrain of January 2022. It could have been a lot worse. Long-time readers will remember the month where I got subjected to 30+ games of Little Bus Lotto, so having to field repeated clamouring for a game I actually enjoy playing is a definite improvement.
For anyone who doesn’t speak 4-year-old, the new favourite is Marvel United – I’ve been playing it with Ned a bit for the past few months, but it seems to have really captured his imagination lately, and he wants to play it most days (in reality that’s rarely practical, as he’ll bring it up when we’re about to go to school, or bed, but we still got in 10 games of it together).
It’s not quite the same as playing with another adult. He’s definitely a fan of moving for no good reason, and will use his attacks/heroic actions based on what he likes the look of rather than any coherent strategy, so there’s a bit of careful balance in how much to let him do what he likes (and then have him be sad when we lose) vs suggesting better plays. The fact that he still can’t really read means that there’s always a certain amount of having to reinforce the rules, but overall, it has me feeling fairly positive that playing board games together is a thing that we’ll be able to do over the coming years.
We’ve also been revisiting a few other games that we got him last year – Monza is recommended for 5+ and at 4, he really wasn’t ready to play, just wanting to push the cars round and round the track, but we’ve managed a few proper sessions of this recently as well. I even got him to play Animal Upon Animal once, before his inexplicable aversion to having things stacked too high kicked in.
Out with the old…
I moved along a few games in January – Grimslingers, Carcosa and Vadoran Gardens were all relatively small purchases that were “fine,” but not really compelling enough to justify a continued place at the table (or on the shelves, if we’re being honest). The big news amongst departing games was the decision to get rid of Dragonfire. At 55 sessions/46 hours all-time, it was still in my top-20 at the start of the year, but only got played once last year, and there was little enthusiasm to play it again. It’s always been a fairly grindy game, with a punishing level of difficulty that just wasn’t a great fit for us, but the point we’d reached – most of the way through the Moonshae Storms campaign box – we’d just run into a complete brick wall and, even though we’re notionally a bit overpowered for where the adventure is, we were getting nowhere. Add in the fact that further content seems to have dried up for the game, and that party had reached the end of the line. We could technically have reset and gone again with new characters, but ultimately there are more fun things out there, at least for us. It’s not a hugely-sought-after game that commands huge prices on the secondary market, but as the original game had been a free review copy, I recouped most of what I’d spent on the 4 expansions, which is good enough for me.
…and in with the new
All of those disappeared just in time for the 3 new arrivals – Nemesis Lockdown, Aeon’s End: Legacy of Gravehold, and The One Ring RPG. TOR remains un-opened, but I managed to play the others.
Legacy of Gravehold (as the name hints at) is a Legacy game, and boy did the opening scenario hurl us in at the deep end! I’m not sure I’ve ever done so much writing on a set of game cards in my life, and it’s going to take a long time to recover from the mental trauma it caused (if the reset pack doesn’t contain replacements for all these cards, I am going to lose it completely…) 2 games of the campaign done so far, more to follow in Feb.
I’ve played Nemesis: Lockdown twice – both times 2-handed solo, as it’s a game with a fair bit of weight to it, and I want to get confident that I’m doing things right before trying to introduce it to my wife. Both games have ended in death, nowhere near completing objectives, so still some way to go in mastering this, but I’m at least starting to feel like I understand the overall structure, even though I have to look things up every few minutes.
Until very nearly the end of January, my most-played games by hours had a most surprising leader: 2 games of Warhammer Age of Sigmar was already double what I played last year (and, indeed, ever, up to now), and this was top of the pile until the last Saturday of the month rolled around, and it found itself unseated by Arkham Horror.
By sessions, the picture was more familiar: Marvel United, Arkham Horror and Marvel Champions were the top 3, which matches the top 3 from last year, albeit in a slightly different order.
As last year, I’ve got a couple of challenges going: a Hardcore Multiplayer 10×10, and a see-what-happens Solo 10×10. I did a fair bit of going back-and-forth on which games to include in the hardcore challenge, and managed to convince myself that I’d included at least one game that I hadn’t actually put on the list, but the final picture ended up looking like this:
Cthulhu: Death May Die
Journeys in Middle Earth
Too Many Bones
For the most part, these are well-established games, with the newest being Marvel United and Dragomino, but as these are games that can be played with Ned, I’m not too worried about them falling out of favour. For the others, most have either had new content recently, or will be getting new content at some point in the year, which is always a good driver to keep them on the table. Probably the biggest risk in that regard is Zombicide (I’ve gone for Medieval this year), as Undead or Alive is supposedly arriving some point in the spring, but I think it’s likely to end up delayed enough that we’ll be a good stretch of the way towards 10 by then.
All 10 games in the multiplayer challenge got played – some of them only once, but Marvel United racking up the 10 in a single month, to leave me on 34 all-told.
Likewise, 10 different games got played solo in January – none reached double figures though, Marvel Champions on 5 was the most-played, edging just ahead of Roll Player and Cartographers on 4 apiece.
A bit like last year, I will be tracking new games played, but I’m not setting myself a challenge – there should be a significant number of new titles coming up (particularly via Kickstarter), but timing is always a bit unpredictable with these, and I don’t want to find myself trying to cram in games last-minute if one only arrives in mid-December!
February is the shortest month, involves Ned’s birthday, and also has various school holidays and trips away, so I’m anticipating things being quite disrupted. Hopefully I should get Massive Darkness 2 at some point, as well as the new Shadows of Mirkwood quests being released by FFG for Lord of the Rings, so still plenty to keep me busy.
In a lot of ways, 2021 felt like 2020 all over again, stuck in a loop of Covid outbreaks, lockdowns and restrictions. Although (all-told) the regulations weren’t actually as tight as the year before, if anything, the impact on our gaming was greater, in terms of the number of games cancelled or delayed due to people being ill or isolating. There was also a definite sense that having had brief tastes of being able to meet up again in person, people were a lot more reluctant to deal with the awkward implementation of some of the online alternatives that we’d previously attempted.
Despite all that, there was definitely some daylight in 2021, and the year as a whole saw a lot of gaming, and a lot of new games.
I played 115 different games in 2021, a total of 980 times, or roughly 728 hours. That’s over 100 games more than 2020, more than 200 up on 2019. For the second year in a row, one game hit triple digits – 154 sessions of Marvel Champions, making it the first (and, so far, the only) game to break 100 twice (Pathfinder, LotR LCG and Dice Masters all managed it in 2015). Overall number of hours is actually down a bit compared with the previous 2 years (757, 744), but still up noticeably compared with 2018 and before.
The most-played games of 2021 presented a very familiar picture compared with last year: Marvel Champions played the most times, with the biggest total of hours accumulated being for Arkham Horror LCG, followed by Champions and D&D: these 3 were also the winners on aggregate, with sessions and hours taken together.
The second highest number of sessions clocked up was Marvel United’s 68, putting it just ahead of the more familiar titles: Carcassonne, Arkham, D&D and Aeon’s End.
7th by sessions, and 4th by time, Lord of the Rings LCG reminds the steadiest of the games, having been played 30+ times every year stretching all the way back to its release in 2011. Whilst this year was one of the lower numbers of sessions, 30+ games for 11 years and counting is still quite something, and as I seem to have found myself the UK’s “ALEP orders guy” I can’t see next year bucking the trend.
In With the New
I played no fewer than 39 new games in 2021, for a total of 296 sessions. A handful of these were demos at UKGE, or things tried at a board-game café, but the majority were additions to my gaming collection, 27 to be precise.
The most-played of the newcomers, by quite some distance, was Marvel United: 68 sessions of this new Kickstarter offering, which arrived in March, followed by Cartographers (20) and Quacks of Quedlinburg (16). All-told, there were 11 new arrivals to hit double-figures.
One game to get a surprising new lease of life this year was Too Many Bones. It’s a game that I’d written about various times in the past, and had acquired the standalone-expansion Undertow, playing it a moderate number of times, but never really to excess. In a somewhat convoluted fashion, already detailed elsewhere, I acquired the original base game this year, and everything suddenly seemed to click. Whether it was simply down to having done the hard part of learning the overall structure, the virtues of having a later printing with the accompanying clearer rulebook, or simply the fact that the core box is a better product, I’m not 100% sure, but this became a surprise smash hit.
2020s 24th-most-played game (just over 7 hours), was suddenly jostling Lord of the Rings for 4th-most table-time, ending up on somewhere just over 22 hours. Inevitably, I’ve found myself picking up a few expansions for this, and have sunk a fair chunk of money into the most recent Gamefound campaign, which should mean another pile of content mid/late-2022. Having established itself this year, I can see it being around for a while.
I’ve now been tracking plays of the various games I own and encounter for 7 years. Over that time period, there’s a surprisingly stable core of 13 games that have been played in each of those years (bear in mind that 7 years is long enough to stretch back pre any of the Arkham games, pre-Zombicide, pre-D&D). A lot of them are staples of modern board gaming that need no introduction, but I felt like I ought to at least list them here:
Lord of the Rings LCG
Shadows Over Camelot (Card)
Flags of the World
Ticket to Ride
Now, there’s a definite range here in terms of what exactly “played every year” looks like: Lord of the Rings has been played at least 30 times in each of those 7 years, 460 times total, and there are 3 others in triple-digits. At the other end of the scale, Ticket to Ride has only actually been played 11 times total in the past 7 years (I’m sure it would be a lot more in the 7 years prior to that), and Shadows Over Camelot and Flags of the World are both stuck in the teens (I’m currently teaching Ned a simplified version of Flags of the World, so expect that one to start soaring.)
As a point of comparison, there are only 8 other games that I’ve owned through that time: 4 have been played in 6/7 years, 4 in 5/7.
One area where 2021 didn’t cover itself in glory was the financial front. I spent more than I really ought to have, and didn’t pick up as much in sales as I’d hoped.
In terms of distribution of cost, there’s always the ongoing outlay for the 3 LCGs – LotR no longer has official content coming out from FFG* (mostly. There’s a fair amount of repackaging going on, most of which won’t be of use to me, but there’s also a new Core Set coming [finally a 3rd copy of some of those core-set 1-ofs after a decade], and a couple of new quests, but all that’s for 2022), but ALEP released a deluxe, 2 APs and a stand-alone, all of which I picked up. I managed to largely balance the scales here by selling some old full-art promos and an OP playmat – the full-art cards were nice, but when someone’s willing to pay £150 for 3 cards, it’s hard to argue with that.
I bought a handful of new games this year, and for the most part, these are sitting at £5/hour or better. The 2 exceptions are Cloudspire and Yggdrasil Chronicles. Yggdrasil Chronicles is an interesting remix of an old game, which got temporarily banished due to an avalanche of tea, whilst I was tracking down some card sleeves. This only needs a couple more hours, so should break even soon.
Cloudspire was something of an impulse purchase, ordered after a miserable couple of weeks of Covid isolation to cheer myself up. As you might expect from CTG, It’s a really chunky game with very (excessively?) high-level production/components, which makes for a high price, and I just haven’t managed to get it to the table enough: a steep learning curve, and the significant chance of getting stomped into the ground has left me wary of choosing an inopportune moment to introduce it to my wife, which has also hindered its table time.
Kicked whilst down…
Above all of this though, the big culprit, both in terms of money spent and games not reaching £5/hour, remains Kickstarter (expanded to include Gamefound in 2021). It’s a topic I’ve looked at before, plenty of times: big games, often with a now-or-never approach to expansions, that arrive long after the fact, meaning that the atmosphere may be less conducive to getting them played than when I backed them.
Right now, I have 3 Kickstarters that have arrived, but not seen enough play to hit the £5/hour that has been (somewhat arbitrarily) chosen as the threshold for ‘good value.’ Intrepid is only a couple of hours short, so should get caught up soon. Marvel United has a much bigger chunk of time to cover but, as I’ve noted a few times before, once I factor in the time I’ve spent painting, then it looks good, and by the end of January the by-player figures for gameplay alone should be fine too. Sword & Sorcery remains the one sticking out like a sore thumb: still a 3-figure shortfall, and still not introduced to my wife 8 months after getting it.
In terms of Kickstarters either backed or Pledge Manager-ed in 2021, there were a fair number: Massive Darkness 2, Zombicide Undead or Alive, Shadows of Brimstone Adventures, Aeon’s End Legacy of Gravehold, HEXplore it, Marvel United: X-Men, Nova Aetas Renaissance, Earthborne Rangers, Freedom Five, The Isofarian Guard, Too Many Bones: Unbreakable, City of the Great Machine. I also watched, but ultimately decided against Agemonia, Chronicles of Drunagor, Doomtown Weird West, and a few others whose names elude me right now.
Listing them all together, it looks like a lot, probably more than was entirely sensible. I also have another 5 that I’m still waiting on from previous years.
I need to dial things back in 2022, a resolution which has already come under assault with the announcement of the imminent Marvel Zombies: the inevitably convergence of one of my favourite themes and one of my favourite mechanical systems. It’s also starting with two big core boxes, and there are bound to be plenty of expansions as the campaign goes along, at least some of which I’ll no doubt end up getting, for the promise of must-have mechanics or characters. Whilst there’s little hope of the price of this one staying low, I’ll at least hope that I can keep the number of other projects that I go after down to manageable numbers.
I mixed things up a bit in 2021 when it came to gaming challenges. I’ve been doing a “Play 10 Games 10 Times” thing for quite a while, and had already split it into the hardcore (decide on the 10 games before you start playing) and standard (just see which are the first 10 games to get played 10 times) versions. For 2021 I took it a bit further, and split the hardcore challenge off so that it only counted multiplayer games, and created a separate see-how-many Solo challenge, as well as an “only games new to me” challenge.
I got there with all of them. Eventually. My 10 picked multiplayer games, 10 solo games, and 10 new games, each played 10 times each. Things definitely came down to the wire though: by Christmas Day, I was still 1 short on the Hardcore Challenge, and 1 short on the Solo Challenge.
Having never really focused on exactly what I tend to spend my solo gaming time on before, it was interesting to realise that whilst I have a couple of games that I play A LOT solo, the overall picture was more one of playing lots of games a handful of times than to have that kind of focus.
It was also interesting to see how games like Legendary have faded in popularity over the years. After getting 40+ plays every year from 2015-17, it has been seeing steadily less-and-less time with each passing year, and 2021 was a new low, with just 13 sessions (3 of which were solo).
I’m not planning on getting rid of it any time soon, and still enjoy most of the game of this that I have but it definitely feels like I’ve at least as much content as I have any idea what to do with, even as I buy fewer and fewer of the newly-released expansions. 2022 probably has a good chance of being the first year that the game doesn’t get added to.
All-in-all, I’m pretty happy with where my gaming collection is right now. Out of 93 games owned, 92 got played last year, and there’s a very small number that feel like complete white elephants. I’m not planning on acquiring nearly as many new games this year as last, although depending on the rate at which Kickstarters deliver, there could still be a lot of new stuff to get to grips with, and I definitely want to move on a few of the older/less interesting bits that I’m no longer that bothered about playing. I’ll still be doing a hardcore 10×10 challenge, which I’ll give its own post shortly, and I’ll be back every month with a general update on what’s been happening.