It’s the end of the first quarter already, 2018 seems to be flying by. There was a lot going on in March, but gaming still loomed large, with a lot of sessions notched up.
Aside from gaming itself, I also managed a bit of a dig through my published/to-publish/half-written article pile. Probably the only constant with this blog, is that anything I’ve already done happened longer ago than I think it did, and anything I’m going to do will take longer than I expect it to. I largely blame Ned for this, possibly because “blogging time” quickly turns into “entertaining/feeding/cleaning the baby time,” and mostly because he woke me up at 3.40 this morning (not actually this morning, but the morning I first drafted this), and I desire revenge.
Hopefully this dig-through will mean a few things that had previously stalled half-way to completion getting a revival. More probably, it will just mean a short-lived burst of enthusiasm before things get back to normal.
10 of 10
My H-Index for 2018 is currently 6, with 5 games already having made it to 10 sessions, and several others not far behind. I’d imagine that this will be tied up by the beginning of summer. There are still some old favourites around the top of the charts, but Hogwarts Battle was brand-new (in the UK) in January, and Dragonfire has only really come into its own this year, so it’s pleasing to see that things haven’t just stagnated.
Shifting to the Hardcore challenge, the picture is still optimistic, although I’m further short of the mark. Arkham LCG, Pandemic Legacy and Zombicide were already done-and-dusted by the start of Feb as far as 10 of 10 is concerned, meaning a fairly large amount of play that’s not counting (15 sessions in Feb, 16 in March).
Focusing in on the remaining 7 titles, Legendary was the first big jumper. Legendary is often a game that gets played in bursts, as we’ll run up against a seemingly-impossible set-up, and try various different combinations until we can beat the scheme/mastermind – 5 sessions early in the month for this one, saw it jump from 2 to 7.
Not surprisingly, the other game recovering from a slow start was Elder Sign, with the arrival of the Omens of the Pharaoh expansion. Our first run at this was almost comically brutal, as the ancient one awoke before we had found a single Elder Sign, or even made it out of Cairo, then failed, failed, and failed again to roll the skulls needed to take on the ancient (triple skull is a nasty thing to try aiming for). Overall, this felt like an expansion with plenty of flavour though, and a lot to offer. 9 sessions in March made it the 4th of the 10 to make it to 10 sessions.
Aeon’s End got another couple of sessions, ticking along slowly and steadily. Massive Darkness took more of the sudden-burst approach, with 3 sessions in one weekend: it was the first time we’d dived into a lot of the expansion content, but it was good fun. I’ve also been making good progress on painting the Core Box content, which should give future sessions a bit more colour.
Gloomhaven and Mansions of Madness are the ones struggling so far. At the moment, it feels like I should have gone for Eldritch Horror as one of my 10 (I ruled it out for being too long) or Dragonfire, but it’s still fairly early days. 63 out of 100 down – roughly 1/3 left to go.
Madness for the Ages
Something I forgot to mention in February’s round-up, was Arkham Horror LCG hitting 100 plays since its release in late 2016. It was last year’s most-played game by sessions, and looks set for a similar position this year, with Pandemic Legacy destined to fall by the wayside, and Zombicide just too long to match it session-for-session.
With the waning of Lord of the Rings, it’s great to have a co-op LCG that’s consistently hitting the table and whilst there may be an element of cynicism to how brutally Fantasy Flight are milking the cash cow, I’m just glad of the wealth of content we’re getting right now. The second full cycle is nearing its end, and we have a re-working of the Core Set campaign due shortly, a third deluxe expected not long after, and 2 more promo-investigators coming with tie-in novellas later in the year.
March was also the month when Elder Sign reached 50 sessions, it looks like all-things Lovecraft are here to stay.
New titles were also in plentiful supply, mostly in the form of review games.
Fog of Love has been making a lot of waves recently, but didn’t really click that well for us – too many of the mechanics felt like they were pulling in opposite directions from what the theme was asking.
Stuffed Fables was a fun idea: playing as a group of “stuffies” (i.e. stuffed toys) trying to protect the child they belong to from some kind of Nightmare Lord. It’s immaculately produced, with gorgeous miniatures, and a glossy story book that also acts as the game-board, but in a lot of ways it didn’t quite click. The walls of text are too big for very young children, and I’m not convinced that there would be a real window of opportunity between old enough to sit through it, and young enough to not be turned off by the theme. Mechanically, the game-play underneath the narrative is very light, with little challenge, and the language of the book, heavily laden with Americanisms, and saccharine sidebars felt quite jarring.
Professor Evil and the Citadel of Time is a nice-looking but hyper-random co-op where you try to rescue treasures from a time-travelling super-villain. Maximum Apocalypse is a “Rogue-Like” survival game: pick your way across a map of randomly assembled tiles, whilst trying to avoid the zombies, aliens, or robots which come out to attack you. Most promising of the March crop, it really needs more play time.
One game that most definitely isn’t new, but was a first-play for me, was Arkham Horror the Board Game. This was one that I’d historically passed by, based on the assumption that Eldritch Horror (not to mention the LCG and Mansions of Madness) replaced it, but was recently persuaded to pick it up and give it a try.
I had a solo game of this, and got resoundingly defeated, primarily due to my utter inability to deal with monsters (although failing to shut gates was a big deal). There are definitely some respects where it feels less refined than Eldritch (a skill reduced to zero in Arkham is an auto-fail, whereas in Eldritch you always get to roll one dice), and the flavour text for things like other world encounters felt a bit limited for a game that’s 2 hours minimum. Still, it had a lot to offer – the sliding skills and using “focus” to adjust them felt particularly fascinating, and I’ll be interested to see how this works once I’ve got a bit more experience with the game.
This session also gave “Ashcan” Pete and his trusty sidekick Duke the distinction of being the first investigator I’ve played in all 5 of the Arkham files series. There’s probably a future article brewing in there somewhere…
Given the number of games I already have, the number of review games I get, and the fact that I get store credit for working shows, it’s a pretty rare occurrence for me to go out and buy a new board game using real money.
When I do, it’s generally a carefully considered process, something done after many hours of research – typically either a Kickstarter or something that’s going to be otherwise unavailable at retail.
March saw me shell out for my first new game of the year. This was particularly unexpected, as 3 days earlier, I couldn’t have told you anything about it besides “Fantasy Co-op.” The game in Question was City of Kings.
The chronology starts off in a familiar enough fashion. Asmodee put up the following week’s new release sheet, I have a scan through, and look up things that catch my interest on BGG. This game looked particularly interesting, and promised that ever-elusive “RPG in a Box.” I’m now definitely after this one.
Then the editor updates the review sheet – no sign of the game. I send a quick email and discover that there’s no stock available (along with a “I thought you might be after this one” comment). I had a bit more of a look online – definitely seems interesting.
Meanwhile, my wife keeps pointing out that it’s less than a week to my birthday, and I still haven’t come up with a suggestion of what I want. Ideas are starting to converge.
I start looking around elsewhere, but discover that the game is basically out of stock everywhere (even though it isn’t released until the following day). There are vague mentions online of a re-print kickstarter.
During my lunchbreak at work, I start watching a Rahdo Run-Through. It looks good.
One of the websites I was searching earlier in the day message me to say that they have a spare copy available (a cancelled order, presumably). I grab it before it goes.
Typically, no sooner have I bought it than the creator confirms a re-print kickstarter launching in April. A Kickstarter that will be filled with bells and whistles, and all the shiny extras that aren’t in the retail edition.
By the time the dust had settled, I was pretty happy with how things had panned out. The game arrived, on my birthday, and it looks every bit as good in the flesh (in the cardboard?) as it did online. The KS will have pledge tiers to bling up the retail edition to something like the deluxe, and delivery on the re-print is still far enough away that if it doesn’t play as well in reality as I’d hoped, I should be able to sell it on for enough to cover my costs.
Lovecraft and Fantasy were the dominating themes for March, with Comics in 3rd, and Zombies a surprising way down. Fantasy itself was still depressingly dominated by “Generic” (Massive Darkness, One-Deck Dungeon), although “Children’s” (in the form of Stuffed Fables) accounted for a good of the by-hours section. Lost Realms was probably the most significant recognisable setting, with Gravehold just behind.
Mechanically, it was still mostly solving the mystery and stopping the plot which occupied us, although plain and simple “Win” was also a notable feature.
Financially, things look broadly familiar: Kickstarter as a whole is looking better (see the separate first-quarter KS review coming soon), but the same old suspects are standing out in bright red on the Shortfall tab – Gloomhaven is the big beast, and has been static for too long. Apocrypha will probably work off a chunk of the remaining deficit when the expansions arrive, and Shadows of Brimstone is moving in the right direction, albeit slowly.
Of course, City of Kings now has a big deficit to work off, but I won’t start looking too closely at that until around May.
March was a pretty good month: lots of games played, and with a good mixture of boxes ticked and just having fun. For April, I have a few things to crack on with (Gloomhaven, City of Kings), plus some new stuff I’m looking forward to (Dungeon Alliance is out-of-stock, but I’ve managed to pick up Rising Sun and Firefly Adventures to keep me busy). I’ll try to keep things up-to-date with general content, and then I’ll be back again at the beginning of next month.