Some Generic Thoughts on Fantasy

As readers of my regular monthly updates will know, “Fantasy” is a big enough chunk of our ongoing gameplay that I often break it down, so that we can see exactly how much time has been spent in Middle Earth, Terrinoth, or whichever other place we’ve been this time.

More often than not, though, a dominant category is “generic” – a term which conceals as much as it communicates. I decided then to have a dig into what exactly I meant by this.

 

Sometimes, generic is used where I just hadn’t gotten round to finding out where things were. Mistfall, for example, takes place in a land called Valskyrr. Having spent a mighty 2 hours on that particular game this year (before getting rid of it), lumping this in with generic is probably not a big deal. I don’t know where Near and Far is set – I’m pretty sure it’s the same place as Above and Below but, having sold the game, I’m in no rush to track it down.

 

The DwarvesIn other places it’s laziness. Lots of games start under generic, then get moved later. I moved The Dwarves from Generic to Girdelgard once it felt big enough as a category to care about. Not having played D&D this year, I haven’t moved it from Generic to “Forgotten Realms” – but will probably do so next year, once Dragonfire gets this category moving. Gloom of Kilforth is long overdue a push from Generic to… you’ve guessed it – Kilforth!

Sometimes laziness gets blurred with trying to keep things tidy. Obviously, Arcadia Quest takes place in Arcadia. The sensible thing to do would be to categorise it appropriately, but have Arcadia counted under “other” in the final analysis – that’s a change I can make now.

 

Generic FantasySome settings, of course, truly are generic: Braggart or Dungeon Time are so light on detail, that it would be impossible to really guess anything much about where they belong. Dungeon Time can probably go into a Low/Historical sub-group, but I really don’t think that there’s a sensible alternative for Braggart.

Munchkin, if I had to push, I’d probably go for “meta-Fantasy” as this is a setting that’s both very self-aware, and more concerned with mocking tropes than building an immersive experience.

Gloomhaven is a city. Does the land it is set in have a name? probably! Now that Gloomhaven is actually getting played, this is something to check.

B-Sieged is very much its own setting, and couldn’t really be confused with most other Fantasy games we play. That said, I’m not convinced that the even the city has a name, let alone the country.

Greyport- Red Dragon
If you look closely there might be one or two clues that this is linked to Red Dragon Inn

Lastly, some of the biggest games within Fantasy are in places that are hard to pin down. Massive Darkness in particular does a good sweep of narrative fluff, without ever giving you the slightest clue that you could use to name the world in which the game is set. Battle for Greyport is set in the same world as the Red Dragon Inn games, and Slugfest games have pulled together a remarkable amount of lore on the place, but it still doesn’t have a name.

An Ongoing Mistake

DominionPolish
I’m sure everyone’s seen the standard Dominion art a thousand times, so I found this nice image of the Polish edition

Dominion gives us lots of information about the setting, but in a rather evasive fashion – is this a Low Fantasy setting (Europe + Magic) or is it its own land, tantalisingly stripped of any key identifying features? I started a BGG thread asking that very question, and got a lot of interesting and undecided speculation before Donald X Vaccharino himself stepped in.

It turns out that Dominion doesn’t have a Fantasy setting at all – it’s simply Europe, mostly Late-Medieval / Early-Early Modern period, although with some outliers (Roman stuff in Empires, Age of Exploration in Seaside). Anything magical/fantastical and the like is simply folklore and popular superstition.

Well, that told me. Dominion is removed, not only from “Generic” but from Fantasy as a whole. The true genre here, is “historical

 

 

If you don’t have something useful to say…

I putting this piece together, I posted a number of threads on BGG for various games, asking if anyone knew the names of the worlds / anything concrete about the setting.

Some of the responses were… less than helpful, shall we say.

For “Where is Dominion set?” I got

“my Dominion set is in a wooden box in my living room”

For “I know the city is called Gloomhaven, but does the wider world have a name?” I got

“Planet Bob.”

I guess I shouldn’t really have been surprised by the Dominion query – every internet forum eventually turns into another Dominion storage solution discussion…

 

Final Picture

Fantasy CategoriesDoing a little bit of tweaking like this makes things look better: Generic is now only 14% of sessions, 20% of time. “Other” sits at 4%, ensuring that we haven’t just muddled things by sliding stuff from one category to another.

70-80% of that “generic” time is Massive Darkness. Insofar as it belongs anywhere, you could argue for this sharing a universe with Zombicide, due to the official cards which allows characters to cross-over between the games. However, I’ve got Zombicide classed under “Zombies” rather than Fantasy and, although the similarities are there, there are definite differences in tone between the games that make me dubious about dragging them together.

It’s quite possible that eventually, I’ll end up creating “Massive Darkness” or “Gloomhaven” as their own categories. For now though, I’m happy that I’ve got things a little bit less muddled.

Advertisements

Kicks of Future Past

A few weeks back, I did a retrospective look at the “value” of all the Kickstarter projects that I’ve been involved in during the past year. It turned into a bit of a monster, leaving no space for me to muse on what comes next. The plan was to look next at the Kickstarters I was thinking about backing – sadly, by the time I had the article written, all of those campaigns had ended. Instead then, this is another reflection: what drew me to those campaigns, and what ultimately put me off.

 

Forbidden Fortress

First up – Shadows of Brimstone: Forbidden Fortress.

Forbidden Fortress I was alerted to Shadows of Brimstone during Massive Darkness discussions. Another game that put fun ahead of precision rules-crafting, SoB was cited as a good way to do character progression and an engaging overall campaign.

I investigated the already-released Shadows of Brimstone games: 2 core sets and many expansions in a Weird West setting. I managed to get hold of one – eventually. Lots of fans online though pointed me towards the chance to late-pledge for the inter-compatible, standalone, Samurai-themed version, due in early 2018.

Even having just picked up the Western version, I was still tempted by the pseudo-Japanese option. Samurai, Monsters, options to play as a Kitsune (fox-person) or an umbrella-wielding Geisha. Have a monkey as an ally. What’s not to like?

Positive aside though, the Forbidden Fortress Kickstarter was a hard sell. For one thing, the KS options range from “very big” to “very, very, big” – and the ‘smaller’ option doesn’t include the Kistune, the Geisha or the Monkey!

MonkeyThe Kickstarter promises great value: based on the publisher’s estimates, $125 gets you $375 worth of stuff, or $350 gets you $835 worth (plus exclusives, of which there are more at the higher level, obviously).

Big savings! ($200ish and $480ish) IF you buy everything later. But it begs the question – do you need anywhere near as much stuff as the pledge includes?? Savings against a fictional total are irrelevant. If the game only needs a single core and one expansion, then over-spending on hundreds of extra figures is a bad deal, not a good one.

On top of that, even if all of the stuff does add to the gameplay experience, and you need all of it, $350 is a hell of a lot of money. It would make Shadows of Brimstone instantly one of the most expensive games I own, behind only a very select list of titles that have been played for hundreds and hundreds of hours over many years. That’s a lot of pressure to put on a game, to justify a bigger spend than Arkham Horror or Mansions of Madness, all in one fell swoop.

Cost aside, the Wild West Shadows of Brimstone Kickstarter has been a nightmare: long delays and poor communication seem to be taken as standard, and lots of stuff hasn’t delivered, years after the base game hit retail. Frustration I’ll get over eventually, but if the game arrives 3 years late, then we’re back into the Apocrypha scenario, where I might not want to play any more games of that ilk.

BrimstoneTown
After each scenario you have a travel event, then visit this town, with 7 different places to visit, and a range of events and items available at each one.

Having spent much of October assembling miniatures, I managed 3 sessions of Shadows in November. The between-scenario character levelling stuff really shone, but the scenarios themselves were… fine. We had some bad luck, made some rules mistakes. Some issues seem to have been generally acknowledged as lacklustre, and should be fixed by the new iteration. It seemed to really need Class Sheets printed off to keep track of things, and I hadn’t. Overall, whilst I’m still positive about the game, it didn’t grab me in the way it needed to if I was going to spend that kind of money.

Ultimately, this was always going to be a stretch: a really expensive project, from a company with a poor track-record for KS-delivery. The game needed to be something truly exceptional, and at the end of the day, it just wasn’t quite gripping enough. Technically I could still change my mind (it’s currently still open for backers), but I don’t expect that I will.

 

Bones?

Too-Many-Bones The other big Kickstarter I was looking at was Too Many Bones. This is a game that’s been frustrating me on and off for much of 2017.

My thoughts on Too Many Bones got so extensive that they spawned their own spin-off article [in a marvellous Freudian typo, I originally described those thoughts as “expensive”]. For those who don’t have the time to read the other piece, Too Many Bones is made by a company called Chip Theory Games, who make very expensive games in very small print runs, and only sell directly. There was a one-off opportunity to get this from GQ back in June, but I was slightly blindsided by it and missed my chance.

Stanza2October saw a Kickstarter for a stand-alone expansion, promising a “more cost-effective entry point.” And a guitar-wielding playable character!

Sadly, this “more cost-effective” still wasn’t cheap – £53 + shipping to try the game. That’s a lot of money for a taster. To get a ‘proper’ play experience (which the forums tell me is at least 1 more playable character than the number of players) I’d need to pay extra for add-ons, at which point I’d have been better just shelling out for the full-sized game in the first place.

Ultimately, whilst it is (apparently) a very good game, the large amount of expense, and the possibility of ending up with something that feels half-baked, and needs further investment to be enjoyably playable was too much of a deterrent. They unlocked a fair number of odds and ends during the campaign, but not enough in the directions of actually enhancing game-play options. $100 for something that might only have been a taster was too much, and this one ended up as a “no” as well.

 

In for a Pound, Dollar

I did something for the first time recently – backed a Kickstarter project for $1. A fair number of projects seem to have this option. Pay $1 for email updates and access to the Pledge Manager – an option to upgrade and get the bits you want at a later point.

The reasons for $1 pledging are simple: minimal cost, and extra time (either to save up or simply to decide whether you want it). Having stumbled on the project at the 11th hour, it gave me a chance to stay part of something I wasn’t ready to pledge for fully.

The main downside of the $1 pledge is that you’re not helping to get the game funded or unlock stretch goals. However, this particular project was for a second printing + an expansion: already well funded, and no stretch goals left.

FolkloreThe game in question was Folklore: The Affliction., yet another title promising an RPG in Board-Game form, probably sitting somewhere between Shadows of Brimstone and Gloomhaven. The game looks very good: fantastic art, a dark, engaging theme. The Victorian-era Gothic Horror tropes seem well done, with just the faintest hint of a steam-punk twist (although the mock-Transylvanian accent on the KS video voice-over was pretty painful). The mixture between wide-angle campaign and zoomed-in miniatures combat was also appealing.

There were a couple of obstacles to backing. Firstly, the games mentioned above: Shadows of Brimstone and Gloomhaven are both really interesting-looking games that I’ve only just begun to scratch the surface of. Even allowing for a 9-month wait, do I have time to play this?

The second issue was a web of complex pledge levels. The base game is obviously the starting point, but where to go with add-ons? The big box expansion adding playable characters seems like a must, but there are also lots of mini expansions that add cards to decks, and will enhance replayability. Given the narrative focus of the game, the books that allow you to create your own adventures seem very useful too.

GhostsThis 2nd printing of the game comes with Cardboard standees to keep the costs down. However, as a painter I want the miniatures (now a separate box). Lastly there are the amazing clear miniatures to represent ghost-characters (unlike many games, character death in Folklore is only a limited obstacle to ongoing participation in the campaign).

For now, I’ll mull this over, happy in the knowledge that I’ve bought myself more time to think, and quite willing to give up the single dollar I shelled out if I decide not to follow-through.

 

Expanding Gloom

Kikforth EncountersGloom of Kilforth is a fun review game that I picked up just before the summer, and which had an October Kickstarter for a second printing / some expansions. I wasn’t that fussed about extra encounters, but the prospect of new Hero Classes and Races (unlocked via stretch-goals) was much more intriguing.

I had intended to let this one pass by, but on the last day of the campaign we had a really enjoyable session with some variant rules that made the game shine, and I jumped on. It was only £21, which felt very affordable.

Pirates!

GreyportPiratesBy contrast, I did decide to pass on the new expansion for Battle for Greyport. The appeal was pretty clear: Steampunk Pirates. Because Steampunk Pirates. Another one I picked up as a review, Greyport is a fun little game (it’s since hit 10 sessions), but at the end of the day, it doesn’t get massive amounts of play, and in all honesty, there’s plenty of content in the original box that we haven’t gotten into yet. The incentive to back the Kickstarter on this was also fairly limited, as it looks like the box will be available at retail next year, by which time I’ll have a far better sense of whether the game is going to get played in the long-term, and might be able to pick it up with some store credit anyway.

 

 

Closing thoughts

Overall, I think a lack of time will be what keeps me from backing (m)any of these projects – Kickstarters tend to come and go within a window which means that, if I’m not already anticipating it, by the time I’ve made my decision, it’s too late. Add to that the sheer epic scale of many new projects and it’s a case of finding both money to back the game and time to play it.

I’m not too worried by all of this, even if I don’t end up backing anything else for a while: as I mentioned in the recent Kickstarter review, I’ve got plenty of KS projects on the go, and even more in the way of other gaming to keep me occupied.

November: The 11th Hour

November was a month of mixed milestones, with a decent amount of gaming getting done.

 

Massive Darkness made it into the 20s, whilst Runebound, Battle for Greyport and Legend of the Five Rings hit double-figures. Shadows of Brimstone and This War of Mine got their inaugural run-outs, whilst vanilla Pandemic returned after a long pause, to set the scene for Legacy season 2.

Aside from Pandemic Legacy, headline new arrivals were a big-box expansion for Mansions of Madness, and Dragonfire.

It felt like a month with a lot of time spent punching tokens, unsealing decks of cards, and generally counting in an attempt to ensure that all of the pieces are present. Gloomhaven was the big offender here, a combination of the massive box of stuff, and the fact that I’d missed messages about an incorrect number of components quoted in the rulebook. I finally got the game to the table right at the end of the month, but it felt more like going through the motions to figure out the flow of the game than actually playing it. More comments to follow once this has had a chance to hit its stride.

ElderShelfNovember was also the month when Elder Sign finally gave up its title as the only game to have been played every month – a session near the start of the month got interrupted before I’d even finished set-up (I can’t remember by what, probably “real life”), and whilst I almost played a panicked session right at the end of the month, I would only have been doing it for the sake of ticking the box, and decided against it. Still a good game, and one I’m keen to get back to the table soon, but no longer an ever-present.

 

ShadowsShadows of Brimstone finally got played in November. We played it a couple of times and it was ok, but not mind-blowing. It feels like we got a bit unlucky in our first game, with a perfect storm of not-a-lot-happening, and there were some definitely rules mistakes on our part. I really like the intra-scenario character progression, in Shadows of Brimstone and, short of a pen-and-paper RPG, I can’t really think of anything that gives you a comparably individual and levelled-up character. That said, the book-keeping is pretty intense, and without printing out character sheets, things get really messy to try to keep track of – even then, XP and $ feel like they need to be tracked on the back of an envelope, as you can easily gain small chunks of XP 20 or 30 times in a single game.

All-in-all, it still feels too early to say how Shadows of Brimstone will fair long-term: I think my enthusiasm is probably greater than my wife’s for this one, so I’m wary of pushing it too much, but I still want to see it on the table another once or twice before the year is out.

This-War-Of-MineThis War of Mine also made it out of the box: there’s some interesting mechanics in here, along with a fairly dark theme that resonates with me personally – I remember visiting Sarajevo and Mostar in 1999 when the buildings were still showing a lot of signs of the war, and Kosovo a few years later. In a lot of ways this reminds me of Robinson Crusoe: Adventures on the Cursed island, although the tone is certainly a fair bit darker: survival rather than adventure. This one is a review copy, so I’ll link to that once it gets published.

Pandemic Legacy is, arguably, the game you have to blame for a lot of the stats-spamming that I afflict you with. Check back here for the article that started it all, but this will definitely need its own write-up – I’ll probably revisit this one in the New Year, once I’ve had a chance to fully play through it all.

Battle-for-Greyport-Card-Game-BoxBattle for Greyport is a game I reviewed back in the summer. It’s a co-op deck-builder set in the same world as the Red Dragon Inn games, with a nasty difficulty curve that seems somewhat at odds with the rather light, fun art. That said, it’s still an enjoyable experience, even if bad draws can lead to players getting their faces smashed in by goblins, ogres or (As in our November play-throughs) dragons. I briefly considered jumping on a Kickstarter for an expansion to this back in October, ultimately deciding against it, as the game doesn’t get that much table time: the extra heroes would have been good, as that’s where the game tends to feel the most constricted, but we’re not really at a point yet where we’re desperate for new missions or monsters. Hopefully this will keep ticking along at a play or so each month, and if it does, I might look out for the expansion when it comes to retail.

 

DragonholtRunebound is a fun game, and definitely the one in FFG’s Terrinoth-based range that gives you the best sense of the place (this may change with Legacy of Dragonholt, if I can manage to land a copy). The new expansion which landed back in August made it fully cooperative, and added some new scenarios which pushed the boundaries a bit of exactly what could be done in terms of scenario objectives. At 2 hours a time it’s never going to take the world completely by storm, simply because it’s having to fight against games like Zombicide and Eldritch Horror, with most other things in our collection being over-and-done in less time. Still, it’s enjoyable, and I think it deserves its place on the 10s list for 2017.

 

L5Art I’m really enjoying Legend of the Five Rings right now, even though it turns out that I’m still not very good at it (I think I’ve won 3 of the 14 games I’ve played so far). The release schedule has been punishing, following the announcement that the first cycle of packs would be released in 6 weeks rather than 6 months! Aside from physically finding the cash, that also left me needing about 3 hours of play per week to cover the purchase price. Thankfully, the Wednesdays of November (mostly) fell quite kindly, meaning I made it down to the FLGS multiple weeks in a row: I’ve been able to try out a good selection of the new cards (for my clan, at least), and develop something approaching basic competence. I still make bucket-loads of errors, but I’ve enjoyed watching it climb into the higher echelons of various spreadsheets. This will probably get its own run-down sometime soon.

 

What got played?

In terms of the overall breakdown, Fantasy was still the main theme, around ¼ of sessions and of hours, although Lovecraft was only a few points behind. Historical suddenly jumped into the frame as I realised that I’d been mis-categorising Dominion all this time. Japan and Weird West scored relatively highly on hours, with Zombies being the last major group of note. Within Fantasy there was a fairly broad spread, although most of it got lumped under “generic”

In fairly close reflection of the theme, we had a good chunk of Quest Completion and Mystery Solving. Winning was suddenly a big chunk, thanks to the rise of L5R, with Survival rounding things out.

Moving Forward

There’s a lot that I need to get played in December – Gloomhaven is the big one, as I move from figuring out the rules in slow-mo to actually playing the game, and Dragonfire needs to move beyond the honestly-not-that-great tutorial to the game proper. Pandemic Legacy will be taking a lot of my time over the coming months, and I’m hopeful of Dominion: Nocturne and/or Pandemic: Rising Tide appearing on the review sheet…

Old and New: Where the money goes

 

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

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

 

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

 

The Old

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

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

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

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

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

The New

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

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

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

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

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

Kickstarter

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

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

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

Looking Forward

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

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

Efficient Spending?

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

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

Final Thoughts

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

July’s Games

I quite enjoyed July from a games perspective.

NedOfTheRings
Ned still struggling with the idea of being allowed 2 copies of the same non-unique character in play at once…

July wasn’t really a month for ticking off many boxes or reaching new gaming milestones (although I did get my all-time H-Index up to 18) but I’d say it was fun nonetheless.

Money

A big-ish clearout saw me back in to positive figures for the year money-wise, as I got rid of a selection of games that hadn’t been played much in years, along with Star Wars Destiny, and some Dice Masters cards Rare enough to have a cash value. As I said back when I reviewed Destiny for Games Quest, I really like the mechanics and concepts in the game, but the price-point is just too high, and with the ongoing arrival of new sets (FFG are already starting to release spoilers for the 3rd wave, when I only got to about half of the cards in the 1st set), it basically becomes pay-to-win: I decided to get out ahead whilst I still could.

For Dice Masters, I’m basically restricted to a monthly event at the FLGS, and have missed the last 2 of those. I’ve decided to hold on to the bulk of my collection for when my son is old enough to play, but that’s probably 5+ years away and I wanted to get the balance sheet to a place where I didn’t have columns of red glaring back at me every time I looked at it in the meantime.

Keeping Track

July was also a good month for spreadsheets – I’ve been moving gradually away from just counting sessions of games to trying to count hours (a tricky task when you’re trying to use a formula rather than timing every session with a stop-watch [which would be an even trickier task when a single game can be interrupted multiple times by a single baby]), and a long spell of dead time in front the computer meant that I managed to get a new sheet sorted to monitor this for me – no huge surprises with what it threw up, but some pleasing graphs and charts nonetheless.

Play

LateJuneReviewsIn terms of what got played, July saw fresh life being breathed into old favourites as I made it to Lord of the Rings night at the FLGS for the first time in a while, completed the Dunwich Legacy cycle for Arkham, and we continued our slow trek across the sands of Egypt Osirian in Pathfinder Mummy’s Mask. In more recent acquisitions, Aeon’s End got dusted off after a couple of months hiatus, Mansions of Madness saw some play now that the Investigators have all returned from the painting table, and we managed a few more hours of Runebound, which were enjoyable enough, but definitely whet our appetites for the upcoming fully-cooperative expansions.

RobinsonHowever, it wasn’t just the old – I finally managed to get my teeth into a small pile of review games that had been sitting around for a while, with several run-outs for Arcadia Quest, Battle for Greyport, and Gloom of Kilforth. All of these were deemed worthy enough to keep around for a while (the PvP combat may eventually see Arcadia Quest moved on, but as killing-each-other games go, it’s a really good fun one). Battle for Greyport is remarkably enjoyable once you’ve managed to get your head around it, and Gloom of Kilforth is probably the best-looking game I own, even if the rulebook is awful. Speaking of awful rulebooks, I also picked up Robinson Crusoe in trade, which was a game I’d had on my radar for a fair while, simply on account of it being so highly ranked and supporting solo/co-op play. I’ve not had it long enough to form a considered opinion yet (played once, thought I was doing ok, then winter came and I died), but I’m certainly not regretting the trade.

Even Newer?

NewNewIn terms of new, new stuff, July was the arrival time for a whole heap of stuff for the world (or at least the UK) at large: Near and Far (the follow-up to last year’s Above and Below) an X-Men big box, which got me more excited about Legendary than I had been for a while, a new expansion for Eldritch Horror, and Lovecraft Letter (Love Letter becoming the latest game to get the inevitable Cthulhu treatment) all arrived on my doorstep. In light of that fairly epic haul, missing out on Sword and Sorcery really wasn’t too bad.

Runebound
This works well as PvE, but I’m looking forward to fully co-op

That new expansion to make Runebound fully Cooperative, and the long awaited Massive Darkness have both been sighted in the wild, but I’ve not managed to catch a glimpse myself (Runebound conspicuous by its absence on this side of the pond, Massive Darkness I now have a tracking number…) – in fact, none of my outstanding Kickstarters have landed yet (I have potentially have anywhere up to 6 due to drop between August and October), but the delay may well be for the best, as I try to clear some space (mental and physical) for them.

Numbers

Although July still fell short of the 60s and 70s of the early months of the year, there was a definite pick up from the low, low numbers of June, and I think 50 counts as a good number for the near future. Obviously there’s a bit of an issue with an ever-growing number of titles competing for a shrinking number of hours, but I’m hoping that we’re not too far away from getting the boy a proper bed-time, which should free up some evenings once again (you can laugh at me in a few months’ time when he still refuses to go to sleep.)

I also started looking at how this year’s gaming compares with that of previous years. The top 10 most-played games this year only account for 56% of my time, compared with 66% last year, and 88% the year before (in fact, in 2015 it was 70% of time just on the top 3).

Overall, 2017 is definitely the broadest year so far: looking at the number of games played, played 2+ times, 5+ times, 10+ times and 20+ times, I’m ahead of 2015 in every category, and although I’m still behind 2016, with 5 whole months to go, I expect to catch-up in a lot of those categories.

Looking at hours and percentages rather than sessions gives an interesting perspective, confirming that nothing is dominating like the last few years, although Zombicide is still going strong.

Playing what exactly?

KarubaNed
Someone seems a bit unhappy about losing at Karuba…

Thematically this was a very strong month for Fantasy, although Arkham Horror did a good job of holding up the Lovecraft banner, almost single-handedly for much of the month before the rest of the franchise piled in in the last week or so to make up the numbers. Mechanically, the good-old cooperative adventuring (survive the monsters, complete the quest, save the world) was the primary order of the day, with only very slight variations in theme.

July was also the month where I decided to stop and properly look at the categories I’d created for dividing up the aim of the games I play. Ever since I first started trying to do this, I’ve been aware of a certain unhelpful vagueness with solve the mystery/complete the quest/save the world/survive the monsters more-or-less bleeding into each other to the point where the distinctions aren’t that helpful.

Revisiting it, I decided to pull out the key element: most Mythos games are about solving a mystery: there probably are monsters to be fought, but that’s not why they’re there – Eldritch Horror was the only one I put under “save the world” in recognition of its epic scale, along with all the Pandemic titles, and other reality-as-we-know-it-is-at-stake sort of games.

“Survive the Monsters” became simply “Survive” which allows it to include Robinson Crusoe, but generally this category is for things where the peril has come to you, whether that’s a horde of Zombies, or an enemy army.

AvalonI also took all the table-top RPGs and a few similar-feel games out of “Complete the Quest” and put them into “Explore” in an attempt to reflect the open-world, lack of long-term objective nature of things. Complete the Quest remains a bit of a catch-all, but hopefully it’s a bit more coherent now, with the idea of a group having their own mission, something they set out to accomplish beyond simply surviving, but which might not (at least immediately) lead to the end of the world if they fail. This covers things like Pathfinder, but also things like Descent. It’s also where I’ve put all things Lord of the Rings, because it’s very rare that an LotR scenario will be a direct confrontation with Sauron to destroy the One Ring, generally, things are much more low-key and small-scale

In the final analysis, the only place I’ve left games in 2 categories are the ones with hidden traitor mechanics, where “find the traitor” still exists on my spreadsheet as a secondary mechanic (and the traitor’s victory condition is ignored). Ultimately, categorisation is still subjective, but it certainly feels a lot neater now.

 

Moving on

Whilst it’s pleasing to have things measured and labelled more neatly, the bottom line is that a fair amount of gaming happened in July, and most it was enjoyable and felt worthwhile. Aside from keeping an eye on what I’m spending, that always has to be the ultimate measure for gaming and, as things stand, I think I can be fairly content.