No Fools Here: April’s Games

April was a pretty good month for gaming all-told.

I spent part of the Easter weekend away at a show, leading to some new games getting played, made another impulse purchase, and got some much-needed run-outs for a few titles that had been gathering dust.

GreenExtrasZombicide remains one of the biggest occupiers of my dining table. We got a bit further through the Green Horde core box in April, although we also died quite a lot – Although the extra damage from Orcs is nasty, it’s been the double-activations that come from running out of Runners that keep doing for us. Those extra 4 runners that come with the second wave suddenly look like they’ll make a much bigger difference than anticipated. We also had a few Black Plague games with friends, after a slight lull in recent months whilst the attention was focused on Green Horde.

The City of Kings was March’s unexpected buy, and early impressions from April were really good – there were definitely some things that took a while to get my head around (1st play-through, I think I got at least half of the rules wrong), but the overall feel is great, and it feels thematically similar to a lot of old favourites, whilst definitely offering something completely new.

EscapeDarkEscape the Dark Castle was a game I hadn’t planned on buying, but picked up on a bit of a whim, following a nail-biting session with the designer of the game. It’s been played a few times since I got back home with it, and it’s definitely fun, although the length/weight are making me start to doubt whether it was really worth the £49 price tag for base game + expansion. Fortunately, it was done with store credit rather than actual money, so not too big a worry.

 

10 of 10

10of10-2018-AprAs I mentioned back in March, 4 of the 10 on the Hardcore list are now all wrapped-up, meaning that I’m only looking at 6 specific title for any further progress on this. (14 sessions altogether for Zombicide, Arkham and Elder Sign, none of them impacting the 10×10 total).

Ned-Haven-May18The big mover for April was Gloomhaven, which got dusted off after too long sitting idle. It turned out that we needed to refresh our memories on a remarkable number of rules, but I really enjoyed our plays of this, getting 4 games in in 2 days (on each occasion we cleared the scenario at the second attempt), and coming back out for another session a week later. I also had single games of Mansions of Madness, Massive Darkness and Marvel Legacy. Currently sitting at 71/100 for the overall challenge, things are definitely moving in the right direction.

DragonfireBoxFor the non-hardcore version of the challenge, Dragonfire was the 6th game of the year to reach 10 plays. Currently I’m at an H-Index of 7 – Arkham LCG, Zombicide, Pandemic Legacy, Hogwarts Battle, Elder Sign, Dragonfire and Marvel Legendary. With 7 more games on 5 or 6 plays, I’m hoping it won’t be too long before this number goes up again. (Of course, if I’d stuck with my original plan of counting Seasons 1 and 2 of Pandemic Legacy as 2 separate games, and Zombicide Black Plague and Zombicide Green Horde as 2 separate games, then I’d be nearly there…)

 

In Review

RisingSunThere were a few review titles that made it to the table in April for the first time. Definite mention needed for Rising Sun – this game looks absolutely fantastic, and I was very tempted to back it on Kickstarter for the miniatures alone, although I eventually decided not to, as I knew it would be a hard game to get played. It’s a 3-player minimum 2-3 hour epic, which involves making and breaking alliances, and battles aplenty. We’re not especially big on (what I now learn are called) “Dudes on a Map” games in our house, and I doubt that I’ll be getting my wife to play this any time soon, but I think this is a really good game, with loads going on, and many layers of subtleties to the gameplay – definitely one which rewards repeat plays. My currently dilemma is “Keep and Paint” or “Sell it now, rather than letting it gather dust.”

Firefly-Adventures-BoxLike many Geeks, I am a die-hard Firefly fan, but have always struggled to find a Firefly game that really hit the spot – Firefly the Board Game is too long, and not especially interactive, whilst Firefly Legendary is painfully ugly, and feels a bit clunky. Would Firefly Adventures: Browncoats and Brigands finally be the game we were looking for? As someone who typically picks up a new game or two to review every month, I like to think that I’m fairly good at grasping how new games work, but the first time I got this out to run-through, I couldn’t even figure out what I was supposed to be doing – the rulebook is some way beyond incoherent, and the scenario set-up/objectives tended to be unclear and contradictory: Further investigation needed, but optimism fading fast. Beyond that, I still have the latest Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective box sitting un-played, and Dungeon Alliance is still only at the components-punched-and-bagged stage.

 

What got played?

Not all that surprisingly, Fantasy was the maintstay of April – well over a third of sessions, and 32% of time. Zombies (25% time, 20% sessions) and Lovecraft (16% time, 13% sessions) were the other big chunks, with nothing else making it into double figures. As tends to be the way, that reflected mechanically, with Completing the Quest and plain-old Survival” our key concerns.

 

Money

The overall Kickstarter landscape is definitely moving in the right direction: There was table-time for Green Horde and Gloomhaven, along with some early pre-order prices for Green Horde, which suggest (as expected) that backing this will be another win money-wise. Kickstarter is never likely to match the standards of games I have in hand, simply because there’s always such a lag between spending the money and being able to play the games, but the current £/Hour rate has dropped below £7, which seems reasonable all things considered. Admittedly, that figure will rise again very quickly if I back any of the number of other project looming into view (see below)

ShadowsPainted
Also been having fun painting these – if I factored in painting time, it’d definitely be classed as good value

For shortfalls more generally, Shadows of Brimstone and Gloomhaven both managed a good few hours of play, bringing the deficits as low as they have been all year. As something brand new, I haven’t started counting The City of Kings yet, but it’s making good progress and will hopefully be nothing worse than a short blip on the Shortfall track.

I spent less than £10 on games in April, which is always nice, but didn’t sell anything either – I’m working up to a moderate-sized cull at some point in the near future, which includes a few ex-review games that are big enough and in good-enough condition to hopefully raise more than a few pennies.

 

Kicks

There were quite a few Kickstarter projects that caught my eye in April.

I had a bit to say here about the Zombicide: Invader Kickstarter, but so much ended up happening (and there are bound to be further twists in the last 48 hours) that I’ve decided to leave this for my next Kickstarter round-up: for now I’ll just say that this is a campaign that’s definitely caught my eye, and which had more than its share of surprises.

City of KingsA campaign that I’ve been more convinced by from day 1, was The City of Kings. It’s a bit of a mish-mash, being simultaneously a re-print of the existing game, offering new expansions / upgrades for the retail edition (which is what I have), and a brand-new game set in the same universe.

Even though I’ve only just started to scratch the surface of this game, I’m really keen to get the mechanical add-ons, and for only £10, having miniatures to paint for the heroes is very tempting. Beyond that, it gets complicated with fancy offerings like plastic “anti-knock” trays (there’s a lot of info in this game to try to recover if you do accidentally clobber the character sheet mid-session) and box organisers (again, lots of bits, although they don’t take up that much space unless you upgrade to wooden resources), all of which push the price for an already sizeable game sky-high. Lastly, the gorgeous art/lore book would add nothing to game-play, but kept looking at me in a beguiling fashion. In a departure from my usual behaviour, I backed this for £1 on day one: it allowed me to get involved with the comments and, with no financial stretch-goals on offer during the campaign, there was no urgency to make a decision before the pledge manager.

The pledge manager for Folklore will be closing soon, so I need to make a final decision and take the plunge. I think that enough other things have caught my interest that I’ve ruled out an all-in pledge for minis and the like (although the ghosts are so pretty…), but I’m still tempted by the base game and possibly the main expansion.

Ultimately, I think that early May will be when I need to finally commit on these games. For now though, there’s plenty to keep me occupied.

 

Final Thoughts

All-in-all, April was pretty good – The City of Kings was a highlight in the “new” column, but it was also good to see Gloomhaven finally making its mark and old favourites continuing to tick along. Mansions of Madness will hopefully be getting a new expansion soon, so that ought to see some table-time in May. Beyond that, check back in a month!

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Marchin Already

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.

Getting Meta

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

DragonwartsMy 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.

10of10-2018-MarShifting 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.

Omens-Pharaoh-Dice-Game-BoxNot 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

Arkham LCG CollectionSomething 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

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.

StuffedStuffed 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.

New Ancients

ArkhamBoardOne 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.

Ashcans
(almost) all things Ashcan

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…

Unexpected

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.

City of KingsMarch 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.

CityofKicksTypically, 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.

 

Themes

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.

 

Money

GloomhavenFloor
it would probably help if this weren’t so big that it needs to live on the floor in a room Ned’s not allowed in…

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.

 

Final thoughts

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.

 

January

A new year, a new round of gaming.

January kicked off at full speed, with a pile of 70 un-played games to work through, a Hardcore 10×10 challenge to do, and the best part of 2 full seasons of Pandemic Legacy to get played by early Feb.

In total, January had 59 Sessions spread over 20 different titles, with Pandemic Legacy the runaway leader – 16 games played this year already.

 

10×10

10of10-2018-JanI’ve come up with a little graphic to monitor the progress of the 10×10 challenge, via this little grid. With 11 sessions in the first week, this definitely got off to a good start, but obviously this is somewhat skewed as any sessions past the tenth of these games won’t count for anything.

At the moment I’m not yet (at least consciously) letting the 10×10 challenge influence what I play – hopefully this won’t need to change, but obviously I might change my tune if I get to October and still haven’t ticked things off.

Pandemic Legacy notched up all 10 sessions within a few weeks – the only one to make it to ten in January, although Arkham Horror also had a healthy chunk completed at the first attempt.

LotMatWe finally had our re-scheduled Fellowship event for Lord of the Rings (Asmodee didn’t get the kits out in time for December). We’ve got a fun group of people who play LotR locally, so it was a good time, and my wife was a big fan of the new playmat. That said, the quest itself was just stupid, and we all died fairly quickly.

At the final count, I’ve clocked up 31 sessions out of 100 needed for the 10×10 in January. Obviously, this speed won’t continue – I’m already at the point where new sessions of Pandemic Legacy aren’t counting, and it won’t be long before the same is true of Arkham or Zombicide, so I’m not expecting to complete the challenge by the beginning of April (January’s rate extrapolated) – still, a good start all-told.

Current H-Index

By Sessions

2018 – 4 – (Pandemic Legacy, Arkham LCG, Aeon’s End, Zombicide)

All-time – 19 (no change)

By Hours

2018 – 4 (Pandemic Legacy, Arkham LCG, Aeon’s End, Zombicide)

All-time – 19 (Pandemic Legacy added).

 

Others

Dragonfire-Card-Game-BoxThere were still plenty of games not on the 10×10 list which got played: a few reviews from last year that still needed wrapping up (Dragonfire, Pandemic Rising Tide), a bit of L5R, and a few scattered odds and ends.

Dragonfire was a game that I was really excited for last summer/autumn, then slightly disappointed with when it arrived, thanks to a rather fiddly rulebook, an unexpected legacy element, and generally crushing difficulty. January was the point where it felt like something clicked – we won our first game, and generally started to get a better sense of what was going on. I’m still undecided on taking the plunge into expansion land, but am looking forward to getting into the core box in more detail.

Shiny

One game I want to talk about for a few minutes, is Legendary Firefly – a game that got two sessions early in January 2018 – not bad going for a game that only managed 3 in total last year.

LegendariesMarvel Legendary is a mash-up with any random line-up of heroes against an equally arbitrary ensemble of villains as the Mastermind tries to carry out a Scheme that may-well bear no relation to anything they’ve ever attempted in the comics. With so many expansions out you can get some fairly unbalanced match-ups, but the overall experience is generally fun, and doesn’t require too much detailed knowledge of the source material.

Firefly Legendary is a very different beast. You’re always playing through “Episodes” each one based on an Episode of the TV show. You’ve generally got a couple of objectives to fulfil, which will directly tie in to what happened in that episode and, most notably, there’s a strong thematic tie-in to individual characters.

Take Shindig for example –the episode where Mal and Kaylee crash Inara’s posh ball, and Mal accidentally gets himself into a duel (with swords). The Shindig episode for the card game comes with 3 copies of an event that simply says “If Inara is a main character, each player gains a talent” (talents are good) “If Mal is a main character, each player gains a flaw.” (yep, you’ve guessed it, flaws are bad). We played this twice in as many nights: on the first night, Mal was a main character, but Inara wasn’t and this cycle of flaws destroyed us. Second time around we’d switched up the crew, and everything was suddenly a lot more straightforward.

Even leaving aside the absolutely awful art (it really is a joke – 2 different cards for one character will look less like either other that they do to a completely different character…) I’ve never been as big of a fan of Firefly Legendary, as I am of Marvel. Marvel generally feels like a game where you’re building your deck and getting to do stuff with it. Firefly feels much more driven by the episode deck (which is very structured and specific), and you generally feel quite powerless, like you’re either poking around in the dark, making blind guesses, or else have no decisions to make at all.

Strangely, everyone else I was playing with commented on how they liked the episodic, more strongly narrative elements – whatever you think of it, it’s definitely shorter and a lot more accessible than Firefly the Board Game. Still, I can’t it making it back to the frequency of table-time it had when it was new.

 

Numbers

UnspeakableTaking a step backwards, the month as a whole was dominated by “Medical” on the thematic side (~30%), and “Save the World” (~40-50%) both dominating the month, thanks to Pandemic. Rather more predictably, Fantasy, Lovecraft and Zombies were the next biggest groups in that order, with mechanics rounded out with Questing, Mystery-solving and good old Survival.

Money-wise, I spent very little in January (just an single Mythos pack for Arkham), with most of the new arrivals being review games or using GQ Credit. That said, using my standard “value ratings,” the spreadsheet still look pretty unhealthy overall, with a few of last year’s big purchases still showing large totals in the red – Gloomhaven and Shadows of Brimstone could both really do with some more table time soon, to steady the ship.

Kicks?

GreenHordeI didn’t back anything on Kickstarter in January, just continued to plug away at last year’s releases – a reasonable helping of Aeon’s End, and a single session of Gloomhaven. Zombicide Green Horde arrived right at the end of the month, but I only managed the tutorial in January.

For February, Gloomhaven is (again) one that needs playing and it would be nice to cross off the last few games of Aeon’s End to bring things into the black. Green Horde will probably be the biggest category of KS play.

The pledge manager for Folklore: The Affliction opened at the very end of January, but won’t be closing for a few months, so I still have time before I make a decision.

 

Final Thoughts

Overall January felt a bit strange, simply because it was so heavily dominated by Pandemic Legacy. It’s a good game, and the second season truly does feel like something different. That said, once we’ve played a few more games so that I can finish the review, I think it might be time for a bit of a Pandemic detox.

Zombicide Green Horde arrived on the last day of the month, and will surely take up a big chunk of February.

I also have another review game, and the original Arkham Horror Board Game, both of which arrived too late in January to get played, along with Harry Potter Hogwarts Battle and One-Deck Dungeon which I only played a couple of solo games of, in order to figure out how they work. Plenty to keep us busy going forward.

 

This is Hardcore

Having managed 10 plays of 10 games by mid-autumn in 2016, and by the summer of 2017 (final tally, 23 games played 10+ times), I decided to step up the challenge slightly for 2018.

For those doing the ‘official’ 10×10 challenge on Boardgame Geek, there are 2 basic ways to play it – normal, which is what I’ve done for the last couple of years (although I don’t actually log plays on BGG), and hardcore.

Whereas with the normal challenge, you play games, then write down what you played, hardcore requires you to name 10 games in advance, then play them ten times – if you are organised, and only finalise your list part-way into the year, then only plays after the list is confirmed can count.

I thought that this was quite an interesting way to think about the future, and decided to do it.

ArkhamStorageArkham LCG and Zombicide were the first and probably the easiest to put on the list – if I don’t play these 10 times, something seismic will have changed. I decided to keep “Zombicide” as a single, cover-all term – it’s definitely possible that I’ll manage 10 plays of Black Plague and 10 of Green Horde, but chances are, I’ll end up mixing a lot of the stuff together.

LegaciesWe’d just finished February in our Pandemic Legacy Season 1 campaign when New Year rolled around, so barring a premature death (don’t even know if that’s a thing that can happen), that’s got at least another 10 games left in it, and to follow, we have Pandemic Legacy Season 2. I was slightly concerned that it might be seen as a con to count these as 2 separate entries, so ultimately decided to just list them once – Assuming I managed ten sessions of each, it should be fairly safe to have this ticking 1 box, whichever way you measure it.

AE-WE-KSLord of the Rings LCG has been steadily dwindling over the past few years, but I’m still pretty confident that it will get to the table 10 times. Aeon’s End hasn’t had quite as much table-time as I thought it might since we got the expansions, but it should still manage 10 without too much difficulty.

MassiveLegendary is always a perennial favourite, and Massive Darkness has only just finished the core box play-through, leaving much left to explore, including the new Ratlings I got for Christmas.

Elder Sign has been one of the steadiest games of 2017, and with a new expansion due in early 2018 , this should be another fairly easy 10.

How to round out the list was a bit of a puzzle – Eldritch Horror was a plausible candidate but committing to play a 2 ½ hour game 10+ times seemed risky. Dice Masters, L5R and Runewars are all too dependant on getting out of the house and finding opponents.

Streets-of-Arkham-Box
We’re still playing through the scenarios from the last expansion

In the end I went for Mansions of Madness as my 10th – there are still a couple of scenarios we’ve never beaten, plus 1 we haven’t tried yet, and 2 which are DLC and I haven’t shelled out the necessary fiver.

The last entry on the list was a late(ish) addition when I decided to only count Pandemic Legacy once. Gloomhaven will probably be slow and steady rather than a sudden rush of plays, but I think we’ll comfortably have plenty more than 10 by the time the year is out.

So, the final list looks like this:

  1. Arkham Horror LCG
  2. Zombicide
  3. Pandemic Legacy
  4. LotR LCG
  5. Legendary
  6. Aeon’s End
  7. Elder Sign
  8. Massive Darkness
  9. Mansions of Madness
  10. Gloomhaven

 

Although I’m only getting round to posting this now, I had finalised the list by the time New Year rolled around, meaning I’ve already clocked up 8 counting plays towards 100 needed.

I’ll continue doing my monthly updates in 2018, but will give a special mention to how these 10 are faring.

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.

 

What on earth is an H-Index?

One of the more unusual gaming discoveries I made in the first part of July was of another games blogger out there who was even more number-obsessed than I was.

Via a post on Board Game Geek, I found my way to an article which went into great detail about something called an H-Index. Since then I’ve found various other links which suggest that this is actually quite a common thing for game-stat-geeks to look at.

Without even realising it, I’d been making reference to something resembling an H-Index for a while, when doing my monthly updates on the 10 of 10 challenge.

If you want to read the full explanation, you can do so over on the original blog, but broadly speaking, an H-index looks at N games played N times – so if you’ve played 3 games 3 times (or more), your H-Index is 3. It’s a measuring system that works in squares, so if you had 100 games played 3 times, or 3 games played 100 times, you’d still only have an H-Index of 3, until a 4th game reached 4 plays.

As I said, I’d used what was essentially an H-Index in tracking the 10 of 10 challenge through its early stages, because there was generally more of interest to say about 6 of 6 (for example) than “still 3 games at 10, no others have got there yet” but I was a bit uncertain last year what to track after I reached 10 of 10 – did I go for 11 of 11? Or did I just keep track of 10s?

I like the H-Index model, and will use it going forward – I’m currently at 11 for 2017, as even though 13 games have been played 10 or more times, several are still sat on 10 or 11.

Looking back over the years I’ve kept records, I was able to put together lists for 2015, 2016, 2017 (so far) and “all time”(since Christmas 2014) – this was what I got.

Big4
The “Big 4” – all appearing on each individual year, and the all-time lists.

2015 –    H7

Pathfinder ACG, Lord of the Rings LCG, Dice Masters, Marvel Legendary, Game of Thrones LCG (2nd Ed), Machi Koro, Mapominoes

 

2016 –    H13

Zombicide: Black Plague, Pathfinder, Lord of the Rings LCG, Dice Masters, Marvel Legendary, Game of Thrones LCG (2nd Ed), Mansions of Madness, Arkham Horror LCG, Elder Sign, Zombie Dice, Legendary Encounters Firefly, Beyond Baker Street, Dominion

 

2017 –    H11

Lord of the Rings LCG, Arkham Horror LCG, Pathfinder ACG, Zombicide: Black Plague, Elder Sign, Dice Masters, Aeon’s End, Dominion, Marvel Legendary, Eldritch Horror, Dungeon Time

 

All-Time – H17

Pathfinder ACG, Lord of the Rings LCG, Dice Masters, Marvel Legendary, Zombicide: Black Plague, Game of Thrones LCG (2nd Ed), Arkham Horror LCG, Elder Sign, Dominion, Mansions of Madness, Mapominoes, Machi Koro, Beyond Baker Street, Zombie Dice, Aeon’s End, Star Wars Destiny, Yggdrasil

 

All-time: How we got there

The guy who wrote the blog article has also tracked the intervals between moving up a level on the H-index – this was a bit more awkward to extract the numbers for, but eventually I got to something that looked a bit like this…

Maps
The first game played after I started keeping records…

1              Mapomines        25/12/14

2              Mapominoes, Yggdrasil                 27/12/14

3              Pathfinder, Yggdrasil, Mapominoes         28/12/14

4              Pathfinder, LotR, Dice Masters, Pit           8/3/15

5              Pathfinder, LotR, Dice Masters, Mapominoes, Coup        12/5/15

6              Pathfinder, LotR, Dice Masters, Mapominoes, Dominion, Machi Koro      26/6/15

7              Pathfinder, LotR, Dice Masters, Legendary, AGoT, Machi Koro, Mapominoes      18/10/15

8              Pathfinder, LotR, Dice Masters, Legendary, AGoT, Mapominoes, Machi Koro, Curse of the Black Dice                15/3/17

9              Pathfinder, LotR, Dice Masters, Legendary, AGoT, Zombicide, Mapominoes, Machi Koro, Curse of the Black Dice                       25/3/16

10           Pathfinder, LotR, Dice Masters, Legendary, AGoT, Zombicide, Mapominoes, Machi Koro, Dobble, Curse of the Black Dice                    28/5/16

11           Pathfinder, LotR, Dice Masters, Legendary, AGoT, Zombicide, Mapominoes, Machi Koro, Dobble, Bananagrams, Dominion               15/7/16

12           Pathfinder, LotR, Dice Masters, Legendary, Zombicide, AGoT, Machi Koro, Mapominoes, Dominion, Boggle, Bananagrams, Yggdrasil 21/9/16

13           Pathinfder, LotR, Dice Masters, Legendary, Zombicide, AGoT, Machi Koro, Mapominoes, Mansions of Madness, Dominion, Yggdrasil, Boggle, Bananagrams      8/10/16

14           Pathfinder, LotR, Dice Masters, Legendary, Zombicide, AGoT, Mapominoes, Machi Koro, Mansions, Arkham LCG, Dominion, Elder Sign, Yggdrasil, Zombie Dice             2/12/16

15           Pathfinder, LotR, Dice Masters, Legendary, Zombicide, AGoT, Mapominoes, Arkham LCG, Machi Koro, Elder Sign, Mansions, Dominion, Zombie Dice, Destiny, Bananagrans  29/1/17

16           Pathfinder, LotR, Dice Masters, Legendary, Zombicide, AGoT, Elder Sign, Mapominoes, Machi Koro, Arkham LCG, Mansions, Dominion, Zombie Dice, Yggdrasil, Dobble, Bananagrams              27/2/17

17           Pathfinder, LotR, Dice Masters, Legendary, Zombicide, AGoT, Arkham LCG, Elder Sign, Mansions, Mapominoes, Machi Koro, Zombie Dice, Dominion, Yggdrasil, Beyond Baker Street, Dobble, Bananagrams                19/3/17

18

H-AllAfter the first 3, this follows a fairly steady, mostly linear progression, albeit with a few bumps here and there – it seems fairly common for there to be a long period without an increase, then going up 2 levels in fairly short order.

21 games total have appeared on the all-time H-list, with some coming in at lower levels then ducking out again, whilst others have been firmly entrenched for the duration. This is the full list, with the games in Red being ones that have previously appeared but have dipped out.

Boggle
Ready to make a comeback?

AGoT, Arkham LCG, Bananagrams, Beyond Baker Street, Boggle, Coup, Curse of the Black Dice, Dice Masters, Dobble, Dominion, Elder Sign, Legendary, LotR, Machi Koro, Mansions of Madness, Mapominoes, Pathfinder, Pit, Star Wars Destiny, Yggdrasil, Zombicide, Zombie Dice

Of these, Curse of the Black Dice and Destiny have both gone, whilst Pit and Coup are languishing on 6 and 7 plays respectively. Boggle is probably the only one that could realistically hope to re-enter the H-index in the future (although the shaking at the start is a bit noisy if the baby’s napping…)

The plays of these 17 games account for 74% of all sessions logged

Fortunately, there are plenty of other games either already just short of 18 plays, or due to land in the future that I hope will keep this ticking along – I’ll keep revisiting it as I go…

 

2017

The 2017 list is slightly harder to organise chronologically with only monthly data: reaching H-5 in January tends to lump everything together somewhat!

El Game
For a while in January, I was only playing games that began with “El” – only 1 apiece though…

The 11 games currently on the list account for 53% of the year’s gaming, so just over half,

2017

1              Elder Sign            1/1/17

2              Zombicide, Destiny         4/1/17

3              Legendary, Zombicide Elder Sign               13/1/17

4              Legendary, Destiny, Elder Sign, Zombicide            21/1/17

5              Zombicide, Eldritch Horror, Destiny, Arkham, Elder Sign 29/1/17

6              Elder Sign, Zombicide, LotR LCG, Destiny, Dice Masters, Eldritch 26/2/17

7              Elder Sign, LotR, Zombicide, Dice Masters, Destiny, Legendary, Arkham 7/3/17

8              Elder Sign, LotR, Zombicide, Arkham, Legendary, Aeon’s End, Pathfinder, Dice Masters  26/3/17

9              Elder Sign, LotR LCG, Zombicide, Arkham, Dice Masters, Aeon’s End, Pathfinder, Eldritch, Legendary,                4/4/17

10           LotR LCG, Arkham, Elder Sign, Aeon’s End, Pathfinder, Zombicide, Dice Masters, Eldritch, Legendary, Destiny                30/4/17

11           LotR LCG, Arkham, Zombicide, Elder Sign, Pathfinder, Dice Masters, Aeon’s End, Legendary, Dominion, Eldritch, Dungeon Time                 25/6/17

 

H-17This follows a much more standard distribution curve, rising sharply at the start, where a game only needs playing once or twice, then levelling off over time. Interestingly, these games only account for 52% of all sessions logged so far this year, which suggest a fair few other games hovering just outside the top.

NextAeon’s End, Arkham, Destiny, Dice Masters, Dominion, Dungeon Time, Elder Sign, Eldritch, Legendary, LotR LCG, Pathfinder, Zombicide,

Only 12 different games so far have counted towards this index of 11, with Destiny being the exception that dropped off the edge – I’ve given up on the rather punishing Destiny release schedule (coupled with a very high price-point), but I’m optimistic that Mansions of Madness and/or Runewars will make it up to 12 for the year sometime soon.

 

 

Timed

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about time: about hours of gaming rather than sessions, as a more useful measure of how much a game gets played. Using the approximate session-lengths I’ve estimated for most of my games, it seems that 10 games have clocked up 10 hours so far in 2017: Zombicide, Eldritch Horror, Arkham LCG, Aeon’s End, Elder Sign, Mansions of Madness, LotR LCG, Runewars Miniatures, Pathfinder, Legendary. – I don’t imagine it will take all that long to add another couple to this list, but much beyond 12 or 13 is likely to be difficult.

 

Going all the way back to Christmas 2014, I can get to 14 games played for 14+ hours – Pathfinder, Zombicide, LotR LCG, Dice Masters, Legendary, Mansions of Madness, Eldritch Horror, Arkham LCG, Game of Thrones LCG, Elder Sign, Machi Koro, Yggdrasil, Aeon’s End, Dominion – I can see myself getting up to 15 fairly shortly, but beyond that it’s likely to be a struggle (to pick one example sitting just outside the 14-hour mark, 2 hours of Mapominoes is quite a lot of games)

 

Hopefully some of you are still awake (you should have guessed this was coming when I published a mostly-pictures article earlier in the week), and will be back to join me next time. I’ll have the July re-cap at the beginning of August, but if you’re lucky I might manage another proper article before then too…