Half-Time

Football Game2018 is absolutely flying by. Our newly-crawling baby has been replaced by a rampaging toddler, a whole host of new games and new expansions have come, pushing some of the old stuff out of the way, and England, Germany, Argentina, Portugal, Spain and Brazil have been knocked out of the World Cup! (that list is going to date VERY quickly)

 

As we sit down for a moment to munch our half-time oranges, this felt like a good moment to stop and do a bit of a retrospective on the year so far.

Ark-Zom
Our literal A-Z of gaming…

The very top of the gaming charts look very familiar – Arkham Horror and Zombicide are miles ahead of the other games, with Arkham leading by Sessions, Zombicide by Hours (although Green Horde has largely taken over from Black Plague whilst it’s new and shiny). Pandemic Legacy dominated January, but has fallen quiet, and sits in third place.

Elder Sign, Lord of the Rings, Legendary, all games that we’ve been playing for years, are all also in double-figures.

DragonfireBoxThat said, there are also a fair number of less-predictable names: Dragonfire and Gloomhaven came in late last year, and have had strong showings this year. Other titles like Hogwarts Battle and The City of Kings are brand new for 2018. Right now, I think The City of Kings would be my pick for best newcomer, but still a lot to play for.

 

Money-wise, spending is a fair way down vs last year: I’ve spent about half what I did in the first 6 months of 2017, and I’ve sold about half what I had by this point: overall things look pretty good, but knowing the upcoming stuff I’ve got my eye on for the rest of the year, I’ll need to be careful and/or find some more bits and pieces to shift.

 

Kicks

InvaderI’ve backed 2-ish Kickstarters this year. Folklore: the Affliction was a $1 back from last year where I eventually decided to dive in fairly heavily: expecting this sometime in the autumn. I also got The City of Kings as a birthday present, and have Kickstarted the expansions/minis, although after much deliberating, I decided against the wooden resources/plastic overlays/quick set-up tray. Lastly came Zombicide Invader, where I went for the $1 option, then ultimately decided against it – I’ll do my best to bag a review copy of the core game next year, but there’s only so much I can really justify spending on Zombicide.

In terms of Kickstarter arrivals, it has mostly been the story of the Green Horde, with Wave 1 (Core Box) and Wave 2 (everything else) neatly bracketing the first half-year as they arrived in late Jan and early Jun respectively.

A last-minute sneak-in was The Ninth World, which arrived with very little fanfare around June. June being a bit of a bumper month already meant that this has barely hit the table.

 

On the way out

Runewars Miniatures was the game that really died a death this year – organised play locally dried up, the store championship was cancelled, and I think most people moved on to Shadespire. I’m finishing painting up some figures and planning on selling the whole lot shortly. As the base game was a review, I’m optimistic about getting somewhere near break-even on this, if not better.

L5R-2Legend of the Five Rings is great fun, and a real brain-burner. That said, it’s still very much a FLGS-only thing for me, and I’ve only managed 7 sessions this year. The Phoenix clan pack never actually made it to us, but we’ve recently hit another of their meta-juggling 6 packs in 6 weeks periods, and I just can’t justify £80 or so on a game I’ve only played 7 times in 6 months. This one has been sold. (I should really head to the Post Office).

Another great game which doesn’t get played is Rising Sun – Samurai + Monsters, it’s an epic 3+ hour dudes-on-a-map game for 3-5 would be Shoguns who like making a breaking alliances and stabbing each other in the back. Fantastic game which looks absolutely beautiful, definitely not my wife’s cup of tea. It’s the sort of thing I’ll be happy to play if opportunities present themselves, but I can’t really justify the real estate of having my own copy – again, this is going, assuming I can find a buyer.

 

Breaking it Down

6 Month ThemeAs has been the case for the last little while, Fantasy, Zombies and Lovecraft have been the big themes for 2018’s games so far, each accounting for about a quarter – Zombies are slightly behind, a factor which is more pronounced when looking at the by-sessions stat.

The rest of the break-down is rather more mixed, Fantasy is still predominantly “generic” which lumps together both the truly generic, like Dungeon Alliance and games with their own unique if ill-defined setting like Massive Darkness or Gloomhaven. Ageless Realms is the placeholder term I’m using for The City of Kings, and that’s been a notable feature, along with The Lost Realms (D&D), Gravehold and Middle Earth.

Mechanically, the dominant categories are both familiar and somewhat overlapping: Solve the Mystery, Save the World, Complete the Quest and just plain old “Survive” – those 4 categories account for 75%+ of what we’ve done so far.

 

Second half?

I’m not quite sure what else is still to come this year. I’ve got my eye on CMON’s upcoming Death May Die – we still don’t have a lot of detail yet, but the early hints sound good. Eric Lang’s name on the box means I’m hopeful that this will be more than just a stack of minis, but we’ll have to see. In the meantime, there’s this, which is stupid. And a tiny bit awesome, but mostly just stupid.

Arydia: The Paths we Dare to Tread is another interesting one. I can’t remember how this first came on to my radar, but it’s raised a fair few interest flags: open-world exploration, “green legacy.” IIRC, it’s come from the guy who designed the highly-popular Xia, so I’ll definitely be keeping my eyes open.

7th Continent isn’t a new game, but it might be becoming available again, at least briefly, and I’ll try to grab a copy if I can (of course this comes with an inevitable “how much should I get” discussion of its own).

In terms of non-kickstarter games, there’s not as much forthcoming that I’m aware of: Heroes of Terrinoth is the Warhammer ACG re-skinned for the Runebound universe, and should be out fairly soon, and there will (obviously) be the normal run of expansions for the various LCGs I follow.

 

Aims?

I still need to finish of my Hardcore 10×10 challenge for the year: there are only 4 games left which need to hit the target: 1 more session of Gloomhaven, 2 of Aeon’s End, 3 of Massive Darkness and 5 Mansions of Madness. Hopefully it shouldn’t take much longer. The ‘normal’ 10×10 should get swept up by that fairly quickly, if it isn’t done even sooner.

I still want to get a lot more play out of Shadows of Brimstone. I’ve started adding expansions to flesh the game out a bit, and have made new fine-tune the character sheets as well – in one recent session, my wife spent 80% of the game rolling 2 dice instead of 3 for every single attack, simply because we’d missed a bonus from the previous game.

Right now, as best as I can calculate, I own 80 games, and have played 59 of them this year, which leaves 21 unplayed. Some of those are titles I’ve tried to sell, but not yet found anyone interested at the right price. Others are titles I enjoy and just haven’t found the time for yet. With a few more games expected inbound (not necessarily vast numbers), it’s probably time to prune the collection once again.

 

I’ll keep updating, posting bits and pieces when I can. Keep checking back and, if anything exciting happens, you’ll see it here first…

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June: it never rains, but it pours(?)

 

 

As I mentioned last month, May didn’t really see a lot in the way of new games. June was rather different.

JuneNewGamesNew Games: Black Orchestra, Kingdomino, Legacy of Dragonholt, SMOG: Rise of Moloch, T.I.M.E Stories, and something called Backpacks and Blisters (it was a Mystery game).

Expansions: Forgotten Age Deluxe, Labyrinths of Lunacy (last year’s Gen Con quest) and Threads of Fate Mythos pack, all for Arkham LCG. Frontier Town for Shadows of Brimstone, Sanctum of Twilight for Mansions of Madness, and Wilds of Rhovanion for LotR LCG.

Kickstarter: Zombicide Green Horde Wave II & The 9th World.

All-in-all, that’s 7 new games, and extra bits for 5 existing games. Just a few things to get through then…

 

Expo

ExpoBefore all that though, there was Expo. UK Games Expo is the first weekend in June, and is now the 3rd largest Gaming Convention in the world! This was the 4th straight year I’ve made it along, and it’s turning into a definite highlight.

That said, this year was a bit of a grind. I was working for Games Quest again, and various issues with the lorry company meant a really long Thursday, and a bit of a slog to get everything sorted: we were busy throughout the show, and I didn’t get to see nearly as much as I have in other years – on reflection, the guys who worked part of the show, and took a day to look around might have had the right idea.

Still, it was good to catch up with people, even if the evening gaming was limited by how late we got back to the hotel, and how knackered everyone was.

 

10 of 10

I went into June fairly confident of hitting 10 of 10: I already had 8 games played 10 times, and was at 9, 9, 8, and 7 on a few others. The Hardcore challenge was probably going to take a bit longer, but I was optimistic of taking a further dent out of it.

All of which goes to show what I know.

I finished June still at 8 games played 10 times / 10 games played 9 times: we had 27 sessions of games that had already hit 10 plays (mostly Arkham, Zombicide and Lord of the Rings), and most of the rest of our time was spread between games that had barely been played before this month.

Twilight BoxThe Mansions of Madness expansion I’ve been waiting on for ages finally arrived about 1 week in to the month, but it didn’t make as much of a difference as I’d expect – it started the month a long way behind the other “hardcore” games on a mere 4 sessions, and this only bumped it to 5. We managed to successfully complete the parade scenario at our first attempt, although it definitely felt like there were a number of different ways it could have played out, and we haven’t even looked at the second. Maybe it’s the weather – glorious sunshine just doesn’t feel that Lovecraftian!

10of10-2018-JunA single session of Massive Darkness was the only other Hardcore progress, as we moved towards the end of the Crystal and Lava campaign. Next step will be to replay some of the older quests with new monster/hero set-ups. In what may have been a slightly foolish move on my part, I’ve been concentrating on painting the core box – i.e. the stuff we’ve already played once, so any mixing and matching is going to lead to a slightly strange painted/unpainted contrast between the different elements.

I’ve still got a little way to go on this, and progress is now dwarfed by sessions on the already-completed games, which don’t count towards the total. 89 down, 11 to go.

 

Zombies!

Zombicide Green Horde will be getting its own full Kickstarter retrospective. For now, I’ll just say that this arrived, and it was truly impressive in scope: 2 big-box expansions, a “horde box” (all the KS exclusives) that was actually a bit bigger than the ‘big box’ expansions, as well as 2 small-box expansions, and a few add-on odds-and-ends.

GH-KS
Everything inside the red box arrived in June

In all honesty, it was pretty overwhelming. We only finished playing through the core-box the day before all this arrived, so things were fairly open in terms of where to go next: some bits I intended to mix with Black Plague before Green Horde, so these went straight to the painting table, as I didn’t want to break the immersion.

Right now we’ve got an (unpainted) Stranger Things party playing through the Green Horde scenarios, with some Tainted Zombies and a Gorgomination thrown in, and I’m gearing up for a Superhero assault on Black Plague, augmented with Ratz (together with their king), Fatty Bursters and maybe even some Spectral Walkers thrown in.

 

 

Shadows Growing Longer

The more observant among you might remember Shadows of Brimstone as a game I’ve mentioned a few times for being a long-standing “shortfall” game. It might seem a bit foolish in that context to be adding to it.

However, June was the point where this game hit break-even after a few fun sessions (we very nearly died in the second, but lived to tell the tale).

Shadows-FrontierI think that there are a couple of things which have been holding Shadows back – keeping it as a “good” but never-quite-as-good-as-I-hoped game. One is the bookkeeping: there is A LOT of information/abilities to keep track of, and the aesthetically-pleasing character sheets I’d downloaded made too much of that information too hard to find – treating it more like an RPG (which is probably a fair comparison in terms of character development/customisation) and writing a more plain-text tracking sheet made the game run a lot smoother.

The Second issue is lack of enemy variety: all 4 basic enemies in the core box need to be approached in fairly similar ways. I grabbed the Frontier Town box because it added some enemies who could make ranged attacks, as this will alter the overall feel of combat (it also comes with a more developed town phase, different types of towns, and 5 new scenarios). I’m also looking to add at least one more enemy, so that I can start to create a bit of a thematic distinction between the various different locations, but I’m also being mindful that I need to avoid getting too carried away.

 

The New (ish)

KingdominoOne of the new (to me) games I picked up at Expo was Kingdomino which, as the name might suggest, is a game where you use domino-like tiles to build up your Kingdom. You draft tiles each round, and are looking to score the most points by clustering squares of the same terrain together and – crucially – including bits of terrain with crowns in.

At the end of the game (about 10-15 minutes), you score each area: C x S, where S is the number of adjacent squares of a terrain type, and C is the number of Crowns in that area. You can also (optionally) award bonus points for having a perfect 5×5 grid, or for having your starting tile dead-centre in your completed kingdom.

The game is about a year or so old, and it won a special Critics Prize in the Spiele des Jahres. It’s already reached the top 200 on Board Game Geek, which feels like a real achievement, given how strongly the rankings tend to favour longer/heavier games.

I really enjoyed our early games of this – it felt a bit like a Carcassonne-lite, offering some of the same experience, but in a much shorter time-frame. Sadly, my wife wasn’t such a big fan: spatial awareness isn’t her strongest suit, and she lost the first few games we played. Need to try this with a bigger group (i.e. 3 or 4, it doesn’t go massive).

 

What got Played

Overall, June was very Fantasy-heavy, 31% of time, and 40% of sessions. Lovecraft was an even 27% in both measures, and Zombies in third. Shadows of Brimstone made Weird West a notable 9% by time, whilst Abstract pushed itself up to 7% thanks to a few sessions of Scrabble (AKA my parents came to visit…) Within Fantasy, the resurgence of Lord of the Rings made Middle Earth a big category, although “generic” was still dominant.

Mechanically things were a bit clearer, with Completing the Quest and Solving the Mystery accounting for 2/3 of all we did.

 

News

Heroes-TerrinothI’ve commented, semi-seriously in the past about the likelihood of seeing a Terrinoth LCG, as FFG lose external licences like Warhammer and Netrunner and try to push more and more games in their in-house universe. 1 week into June 2018, they announced Heroes of Terrinoth, a “cooperative Adventure Card Game” set in the same universe as Descent, Runebound, Runewars and the like. A quick bit of searching confirmed that this was more-or-less a re-skin of the highly regarded (although never played by me) Warhammer Quest.

Runewars is yet to see any play this year, with most local opponents having moved on to Shadespire (I’ll probably sell it once I’ve finished painting it all up), and I also got rid of Rune Age, as it always felt a bit lacklustre. Having only managed a single game of Runebound having something new (and hopefully a bit shorter) in this setting definitely sounds appealing.

 

Numbers

The overall financial picture has been looking steadily better for a while – everything except Apocrypha is into the positive columns when measured by player-count, and the 2016-only section also looks fine. There are still a few historic titles which have shortfalls, but most of these feel under control and are heading in the right direction. Dixit and Shadows of Brimstone both disappeared from the shortfall sheet this month.

9th WorldApocrypha is getting a bit left behind, and I’m not expecting great movement there, at least until the expansions arrive, probably sometime in the autumn. It’s also still well within the realms of possibility that I’ll decide to sell this on and, whilst I’m sure I’ll end up taking a hit compared to what I paid, I should still be able to get at least the £35 I’d need to wipe it off of the shortfall tab…

The retail release of 9th World improved the overall cost-value of my Kickstarters (along with the fact that I eventually decided against adding the deluxe components for The City of Kings), but now that the game itself has arrived, it needs playing a fair amount to make good on the spend. Early mutterings aren’t great, but I’ve yet to try it myself. Overall, Kickstarter is looking pretty healthy – there are still shortfalls on plenty of games, but it’s mostly the undelivered ones, with all the things I’m actually playing moving in the right direction.

 

Final thoughts

What will July hold? I’m broadly optimistic of getting in as a very late backer on 7th Continent, and will be keeping a close eye on CMON’s Death May Die, due on Kickstarter on 10/7. I’m trying to have less of a reviewing backlog, so will be doing my best to blast through the rest of June’s new arrivals before picking up anything much else.

Back to Basics: May 2018

I went into May expecting a slightly less game-intensive month as we caught up on a few other odds and ends. In the end, it turned out to be one of the most game-heavy months of the year so far, with lots of things getting played, including lots of my 10×10 challenge titles, and a few old classics.

 

10 of 10

H-Index for 2018 is up to 9, although I actually have 11 games on 8 or more, as well as a few 6s and 7s, so hitting that 10 of 10 threshold feels very near.

10of10-2018-MayFor the Hardcore project, things came on in leaps and bounds in May. First up I wrapped up Marvel Legendary, with a couple of Thanos/Infinity Gem-themed games ahead of our trip to see Infinity War.

Lord of the Rings had been lagging behind, but got a bit of a revival this month as we started off a 2-player mini-campaign. We’ve had several good, fleshed-out games, where things actually seemed reasonably balanced (Easy Mode). I’ve now hit 10 sessions for the year, but am still looking to take it further. Gloomhaven is up to 9/10 plays, and I’m starting to feel like we’re really getting into the narrative of this one.

TrollMassive Darkness, returning to our table as it’s now largely painted, and Aeon’s End, also got a couple of sessions each, to keep things ticking along.

Mansions of Madness is definitely the ‘Hardcore’ title that’s lagging the farthest behind, and was only played once in May. I’ve been waiting on an expansion for this for a while, but there have been various stock-issues delaying things, so I should really just get it played some more with the existing content.  Overall a highly respectable 16 sessions logged (and 22 on the already-complete games), leaves me on 87/100 overall.

 

New

Dungeon Alliance
The early buzz around this one was good, but I’m struggling to muster much enthusiasm (no doubt partly due to lacklustre art)

There was very little that was brand new for May. Dungeon Alliance finally made it off of the “to-play” pile, but only once, and everything else was a return, whether it be from April (The City of Kings, Firefly Adventures), from many years ago (Scrabble, Boggle), or somewhere in between (Zombicide, Legendary). Most of the new/upcoming review content is expansions rather than standalone games, so nothing much to report there.

The only real exception to this was I Am the 4th Wall, a Kickstarter (p)review game. This was one I ended up doing for a friend as a bit of a rush job, and had to return shortly after I started playing it.

I-am-4th-Wall-Card-Game-BoxIt was my first time reviewing a prototype, and it was an interesting experience, trying to work out what was poor templating/editing, and what was just an inevitable feature of an early draft.

The game itself is a Lovecraftian horror set in ‘50s suburban America – The Scientist and the Professor meet the Roller-Skating Waitress and the Bubble-gum-Chewing Photographer. It’s quite quirky, easy to pick up, and does a few clever things, although I found the randomness a bit excessive. Having already had to return it to its owner, it’s hard to say whether it would have had any long-term staying power in our collection, but it was certainly a fun little diversion.

 

What got Played?

City of KingsMay definitely felt like a Greatest Hits month, with Lovecraft, Zombies and Fantasy dominating the landscape, and accounting for over 70% of games simple survival. Saving the World, Solving the Mystery, and just plain “Winning” also featured

Within Fantasy, the City of Kings setting (I’m currently going for “Ageless Realms” which is technically only a sub-area, but the creator isn’t sharing the official name yet) was our main location by time, but sessions were dominated by a resurgent Middle Earth.

 

Numbers

May saw my first clear-out since January, moving on a few unwanted review games, and a couple of older titles that just don’t get much play anymore. It was enough to see me briefly in profit for the year, before I bit the bullet and finally pledged for Folklore (the day before the pledge manager closed).

My shortfall stats took a dip at the start of the month – The City of Kings has now been owned long enough to count towards the “Current Year” totals, and a new Lord of the Rings pack arrived, pushing that temporarily into the red. Fortunately, these were both wiped out by the end of the month, and with a bit more progress on Shadows of Brimstone (if I factored painting time in, it would already be looking very healthy) meant that things were improved on where the month started, albeit not by as much as April’s jump.

Kickstarter wise, Aeon’s End and Zombicide Green Horde joined Massive Darkness as the second and third games to be showing positive value in all columns (more cost-effective than waiting for retail and gameplay value greater than spend).

Despite all this, the overall picture for Kickstarter is worse than at the end of April, simply due to the amount spent on new projects (Folklore, The City of Kings). I still need to make up my mind about Zombicide Invader, which could well be another huge chunk gone.

Despite all that, if I look just at games where delivery has begun, I’m only sitting at £4.49 per hour and for games which have arrived completely (i.e. not waiting for expansions to drop), it’s a mere £3.99 per hour. Both of these are well inside the £5/h maximum, and I’m definitely happy with the state of things. I think I’m going to use these measures more in the future, as they probably give a better long-term picture than the “overall” £6.40 per hour which includes games not due until 2019…

 

Next?

June is of course the month of the UK Games Expo, which may even get a write-up of its own (and should certainly bring some new games, or at least bits for them). It’s likely that June will be when I wrap up the non -hardcore 10×10 challenge, although 6 games of Mansions of Madness in a month is likely to be pushing it. Whatever fun & games I come up with, I’ll be back in a month to report.

The Good, the Bad, and the Dead-eye

 

Deadeye-Walkers-Box

Zombicide, as the name might suggest, is a game that contains a lot of Zombies. Pretty-much every monster you’ll face in Zombicide Black Plague will be a zombie form of something or other.

Perhaps the biggest exception to this rule is the Deadeye Walkers, a band of skeletons who will shoot down your survivors with deadly accuracy. The Deadeye Walkers box was originally released alongside Black Plague a few years ago and has been hard to get hold of for a while. With a reprint due in the next few months as part of the Green Horde Wave 2 Kickstarter, I thought this would be a good time to put up a full review of them.

There are 3 sculpts in the Deadeye walker box – an archer firing.

Deadeye-Walkers-Figure-1An archer with his bow pointed diagonally down (just about to draw?)

Deadeye-Walkers-Figure-2

And another with his bow slung on his back and his knife drawn.

Deadeye-Walkers-Figure-3

Personally, I’m a big fan of the first 2 sculpts and slightly less keen on the last one, simply because it doesn’t stand out as clearly as being an archer. That said, all of the miniatures are nicely done, and they make an interesting change from the Zombie mass, with no flesh, exposed bones everywhere, and a slightly better quality of clothing and equipment.

As with all of my Zombicide figures, I painted these up, and was quite pleased with the overall result. Aside from the bows, there isn’t much that makes them stand out from the crowd, but they look nice, and don’t feel too jarring.

Deadeye-Walkers-Box-Interior

Whilst their aesthetic impact isn’t earth-shattering, Gameplay wise, the Deadeye walkers are something completely different. They move a single space per activation, and only require 1 damage to kill, much like a standard walker, but unlike any other zombie, these can attack at range!

When a Deadeye walker activates with line-of-sight to a Survivor at range 1-3 instead of moving, they simply fire their bows. As is generally the way zombies, unlike survivors, don’t need to roll to hit you, and unless you have armour, those hits are going straight onto your party.

Deadeye-Walkers-Building
Indoors is a good place to meet a group of Dead-eyes

Deadeyes challenge a lot of the accepted thinking in Zombicide – whereas backing off, letting zombies come to you, and trying to pick things off at range are all good ideas for most of the standard Zs, to take down a Deadeye you probably want to get up close and personal – quickly!

Deadeye-Walkers-Street
Long streets are more of a problem.

Deadeyes lose a lot of their bite indoors, but can pose serious difficulties in those scenarios where the gaps between buildings span multiple tiles. Deadeyes also add a new element of fear to the Extra Activation for Walkers cards – whereas one clear space to a group of walkers should see you safe, a group of Deadeyes four zones away could pick off a survivor or 2 with the right card!

 

Deadeye-Walkers-Wolfz
Wulfz and Dead-eyes: a combination of Nightmares.

Deadeyes are at their deadliest in combination with the Wulfz of Wolfsburg, simply because the 2 Zombie types encourage such diametrically opposed styles of play. Wulfz are a nightmare in buildings, where they can be well out-of-sight, but still close enough to eat you, but fairly manageable out on a long street where you can shoot once or twice, whilst staying out of the way. Once you have Wulfz and Deadeyes together, you’ll struggle to find a safe place to shoot at the wulfz where the Deadeyes won’t get you back.

As an enemies-only box, Deadeyes are very easy to introduce to Green Horde, but the Hedgerow-heavy environment of the early scenarios takes away a lot of their threat. Where they will thrive is spawning at the top of a waterhole, guaranteeing that your survivors won’t be able to approach and kill them inside a single turn.

 

After Wolfsburg, I think the Deadeyes are the expansion which add the most game-play wise to Black Plague. At the moment they can be a bit hard to track down, but they’re being re-printed as part of to the Green Horde campaign, which should significantly increase the number in circulation. Well worth it if you enjoy Zombicide, especially if you want to up the challenge.

2018: 1st Quarter Kicks

With 2018 already (somehow!?!) ¼ over, I thought it was a good time to check in on the world of Kickstarter.

Coming from Behind

Kickstarter Games
As ever, Gloomhaven just a bit too big to fit in the picture

I started the year with a hefty deficit money-wise on a large number of outstanding Kickstarter projects – lots undelivered, lots without even an RRP available. Part of that was due to ongoing delays, part simply due to where I was in the cycle of backing and receiving.

 

Since then, things have improved quite a bit – about £100 on cost value (i.e. I now know how much some more things would have cost at retail and how much I saved/lost by backing them early) and £130 or so gameplay value (i.e. just over 27 hours’ worth of play on Kickstarter games). In £/Hour terms, that’s pulled the figure down from an eye-watering £12.23 per hour to £9.96 – still a lot, but heading in the right direction.

I’ve actually only had 21 games all-told across any of the Kickstarter titles so far this year. Even allowing for it only being March, that’s still some way down on 62 last year (given that no KS game arrived before August in 2017). I’d struggle to put my finger on a single reason for this, especially as there are still plenty of KS games in my collection that I’m enthusiastic about playing and which have plenty of life left in them.

Apocrypha is still running a deficit, both in terms of play and cost. This has hit the table 1 or 2 times, so should get there eventually, and once the expansions land, that should wipe out the retail shortfall.

 

Lightbringers
Expansion heroes all nicely painted up, but I still need to get the Wandering Monsters done

Massive Darkness remains the healthiest-looking game overall, with figures comfortably in the black in all directions. We recently had this one out for the first time in a little while, making our first foray into some of the extensive expansion content – good fun, and definitely giving a sense of variety.

 

Aeon’s End continues to tick along, slowly and steadily. At the moment, this is still ever-so-slightly in the red for play value, but by less than the “vs retail” saving, meaning that it’s posting a positive total over (and only 1 session short play-wise).

Even now that things have hit retail again, Gloomhaven looks like pretty good value to a Kickstarter backer vs the retail cost. That said, play-time is looking a bit shabbier: it has been played this year, but nowhere near as much as I’d hoped/expected. This is one of the ones that really needs some serious table-time.

 

GreenHordeWave2
From the latest KS update – this picture actually includes a fair few add-ons that I’m not getting but still. Wow, that’s a lot of content!

Zombicide Green Horde arrived at the very end of January. It’s great fun, as expected, but the first few scenarios in particular are brutally hard (I’m sure it will get easier with time, as we adjust to the new style of play). At the moment, I only have the base game, and even that doesn’t have a retail release yet, meaning the numbers look especially shocking (I’m probably still a little way short of the amount of play that would justify the cost of the core box), but I’m confident that things will quickly and quite dramatically leap into the black once we get confirmed retail prices and/or wave 2 lands in the summer.

 

There is still no sign of 9th World, Legends Untold, or the Gloom of Kilforth Expansions (Kilforth wasn’t expected until the summer anyway).

 

New projects?

In terms of new projects, it was a quiet quarter – a few things caught my eye, but none sufficiently to get me to open my wallet.

AE-L Aeon’s End Legacy is the new set for Aeon’s End. It looks like another whopper, with a legacy campaign that allows you to create your own character, and a whole stack of extra marketplace cards that you can use during the campaign or in stand-alone games afterwards.

As I’ve mentioned in the past, I’m a big fan of the gameplay in Aeon’s End, but like everything else, it’s struggling for table time these days, as both my games collection and the baby keep on growing (he can now reach things on the table if they are left too near the edge!) on top of that, the whole way the Legacy campaign was handled rubbed me up the wrong way.

For one thing, lots of play-testers took to the forums to post reviews which basically all said “this is great, but I’m not going to tell you anything about how/why, because of Spoilers.” I understand (up to a point) the reluctance to give spoilers, but the end result was something that felt more like marketing than a review as it couldn’t really offer me anything more concrete than “buy it!”

On top of that, the chance to ‘create my own mage’ – which seems to be the big selling-point of the campaign – felt strange as well. Generally, the coolest characters in the game are the ones who break the standard rules – those with unique breaches being an obvious example. It seems pretty likely that in a pick-and-mix, make a character from these stickers system, options like that simply aren’t going to be available. The designers and their play-test fans were quick to assure us that there were 5000 different possible combinations, but without getting a real sense of how different they were actually going to be, I wasn’t ready to get involved.

AE-L Art
Being an Aeon’s End game, there was some dubious art involved

 

My biggest disappointment in missing out, was the stretch goal to provide dividers from the first edition game in the style of War Eternal. This was especially galling as it felt more like something missing from what I already had (AE+AE:WE) than it did a part of Legacy. I’ve put out a few feelers, and will try to pick up someone else’s un-wanted set on the secondary market for these.

As a final note, I should say that, being Aeon’s End, the art is still pretty awful, and I fully expect the card-stock to be all over the place, and at least some of it so be glossy finish.

If the opportunity to review this comes up, I’ll throw my hat into the ring, and I may even fork out eventually for the new expansion, which is just additional non-legacy market cards, but it’s not something I want to pay $80 for.

 

Folklore

FolkloreThe Pledge Manager for Folklore is still open. Everything I’ve seen suggests that this is a really good game, but I just don’t know that I have the time for it right now. If I did dive in, there’s still the question of which of the many different routes to go down – core box only because it’s cheap, or all-in, to get some of the beautiful miniatures to paint.

I backed Folklore because it looked like they couldn’t guarantee it getting a retail release. Latest forum rumblings suggest that it might get one after all, at which point picking it up from GQ is almost certainly a cheaper option (hooray for store credit!)

Oddly, I think that one of my biggest obstacles with Folklore is the fact that Rahdo never ran through it: there are other gameplay videos out there but as they’re not from vloggers I’m familiar with, it’s hard to get a real sense of the game.

 

Batman

Batman-Gotham-City-Chronicles-1
I’m pretty sure this doesn’t even include the stretch-goals. It’s a LOT of miniatures

Batman: Gotham City Chronicles was one of the big headline games of the first part of 2018. It (apparently) took the Conan engine and re-skinned it for the city of Gotham.

It’s a big game – $140 is the starting point, and it looks like it’s never going to get a non-Kickstarter release, so backing it now (or backing the inevitable reprint in a year or 2) are basically the only options aside from hoping it eventually appears on eBay.

The miniatures look really nice. Lots of iconic characters, generally really nicely sculpted.

The killer (apart from that mega price-tag) is the fact that it seems to be a purely PvP game, and I really can’t see my wife wanting to duke it out head-to-head with me. Part of me is tempted to get this one to play with Ned – assuming it delivers next year, I might even manage to get it painted over the 12 years I’d need to wait for him to reach the recommended age limit. Realistically though, that doesn’t seem sensible. Aside from anything else, I know that as a parent I need to let him make his own decisions, and it’s still too early to tell whether he’ll opt for Marvel or DC.

Harry Potter

HarryPotterHaving been pleasantly surprised by Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle, my interest was definitely piqued by the idea of a Harry Potter miniatures game.

Sadly, March saw what can, at best, be described as a debacle on the part of Knight Miniatures. Having announced an upcoming Kickstarter for a Harry Potter Adventure Game, they then released a very drab video depicting a single turn of an incredibly generic-looking skirmish game, cancelled the Kickstarter, and started taking pre-orders (for the US, UK and Spain only) for something that looked suspiciously like it was just some miniatures in a tin box, with the associated “game” rather lacking.

To add to the list of red flags, KM seem to have a pretty shaky reputation in terms of Quality Assurance and Customer Services, the miniatures were resin rather than plastic (too breakable for my liking), and frankly bizarre distribution/omission of key characters (Voldemort appears to be a pre-order bonus only, not available in an actual retail purchase), and like many people I quickly decided to pass.

HarryRonHermioneBefore I stop talking about this game, I do want to take a quick moment to look at some of the miniatures themselves. For the most part, they look straight take-offs of the film characters – Crabbe (or possibly Goyle) comes complete with a cake, and various big-screen poses are re-captured – which is fine. My main complaint though, was with the Hermione miniature. If you were looking for a contemporary female character who is most clearly defined by her brain rather than her looks, and who stands out as someone whose achievements stand up to scrutiny without needing to be bolstered by feminine charms, then Hermione Grainger is surely one of the first names you come to. The sculptor however, clearly felt differently, and decided that she needed to be depicted mid-prance, standing on one leg, with her Gryffindor scarf twirling about her like a streamer from a rhythmic gymnastics display. Compared to Harry, whose pose is dramatic, but looks combat-ready and functional, and Ron, who just looks slightly bored, this felt depressingly patronising, and provided the final nail in the coffin of interest, if another one were needed.

 

Future

I’m not anticipating vast KS expenditure in the coming months, but there is at least one project that’s caught my attention…

City of Kings

City of KingsThe City of Kings (I always seem to forget the “The”) was a game I’d been only vaguely aware of, until discovering that it wouldn’t be available to review (stock issues). Amid a mad panic about stock availability, I splashed out on a copy from an online retailer, setting up a few days of anticipation about whether it would actually arrive, or be cancelled.

The game-play videos for this looked really interesting, and seemed to position it somewhere between Folklore (see above) and Spirit Island, which was the other big co-op I’d been considering (and which is now out of stock everywhere again). That said, the retail edition was definitely missing a few things compared to the original KS edition, so the announcement of an April re-print Kickstarter which should include “just the new stuff” and “bling up my retail edition” pledge levels [not actual titles] has definitely caught my eye. I’ve played the game twice so far and really enjoyed it, but hopefully, the window before the KS closes will be sufficient for get far enough into the game to make an informed decision about whether I actually need/want to get it decked out.

 

Next

Invader
For something that is essentially a re-skin of one of my all-time favourite games, it’s amazing just how much I dislike the look of this

Lots of people have been posting online about how this feels like a mega time for Kickstarter games, but it hasn’t really felt that way to me. This is probably for the best, as my wallet really doesn’t need any more Kickstarter projects.

In terms of the next quarter, I’m not sure what else is coming. There’s a new Zombicide project coming – Zombicide Invader. Whilst outer-space Zombicide is an interesting idea, early figure prototypes look like Space Marines vs demon-creatures from The Others, so unless something major changes during the campaign, I can’t see myself bothering with this one. It’ll be interesting to see whether more Zombicide means no Massive Darkness Season 2 (don’t especially need more minis, but a rules-revision could make a good game a great one).

Arydia: The Paths we Dare to Tread is an open-world Fantasy adventure that should be coming some point this year. At this stage, virtually nothing is known, and it’s probably not going to squeeze into the 2nd quarter, but I’ll keep my eyes open.

That’s about all for today. I’ll be back in 3 months or so with another update.

February made me shiver

It’s March as I sit writing this, our first snow day of the year, but February was still pretty nippy.

February was a bit of a more balanced month than January. There was still some Pandemic Legacy being played, but we weren’t far into the month before deciding we needed a bit of a break from it. So far, the lull has dragged on slightly longer than intended, and this should probably be pulled out again soon.

 

10 of 10

10of10-2018-FebI reached 10 plays for Arkham Horror LCG and Zombicide, which meant 3 of 10 games ticked off for the 10×10 Hardcore challenge, I also got my first play of Elder Sign for 2018 in, meaning that all but 1 of the games has now at least started the march towards 10.

For the hardcore challenge, I’m still only at an H-index of 3, although this rises to 4 if you include all games.

With 3 games no longer counting, I expect 10×10 progress to slow down for the next little while. That said, there are still plenty of manageable-length games on the list with plenty of ground to cover. Right now, Gloomhaven feels like the most challenging of the 10 to get finished, although Massive Darkness is definitely experiencing a lull in early 2018.

 

Unplayed

I still have yet to play the vast majority of my games this year – a few more got crossed off in February, but not huge numbers. With a few newish games coming in (reviews, mostly), I think it might be time for another cull of the current library.

Looking at the games which didn’t get played last year, there’s a definite emphasis on big group/party games, which makes sense as those types of gathering just aren’t that common any more – something I blame on the fact that most people we know seem to have children these days. The fact that the friends we most regularly game with had a baby at the end of January means that I anticipate far fewer games with more than 2 players this year.

 

Keeping it Green

GreenHordeIn terms of last month’s new stuff, Zombicide was a blast, as ever. The new Zombie Orcs are tougher than their human counterparts, but the inclusion of upgraded weaponry (including a trebuchet) helps to balance things out. Probably the biggest difference is with map-styles, as the Green Horde tiles have lots of hedgerow areas – big on space, low on line-of-sight: it definitely feels harder than Black Plague at the moment, but I may change my mind as we adjust to the new style. Still plenty more mileage in this.

One-Deck-Dungeon-Card-Game-BoxOne Deck Dungeon can be played solo or 2-player, although I’ve actually been playing a fair amount of 2-handed solo for the best (worst?) of both worlds. As a dice game, there’s definitely a fair amount of luck involved, but I do like how puzzle-y it is, and it’s an interesting mental challenge to figure out how best to allocate the dice, as well as what to do with the rewards. For March I need to get some real 2-player games in before I submit my review.

The original Arkham Horror is the game that’s taking a bit more effort to get played – it really is a monster of a game, and notorious for being a nightmare if you launch in without having properly got the rules down. I had hoped to dedicate some free time on Tuesdays to this, but after someone reversed into my car, the week before I was due to part-exchange it for a new one, the month basically turned into one long string of calls and emails to garages and insurance companies.

 

Alohomora!

Hogwarts-Battle-Card-Game-BoxFebruary saw the first break-through game of the year. I’d expected/hoped that this title would be claimed by Dragonfire, but instead, it was the comings and goings at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry that staked-out our dining table.  Harry Potter Hogwarts Battle, to give it its full name, is a film tie-in with way too many needless “TM” symbols plastered all over it. If you can get past that though, there’s actually an interesting little co-op deck-builder in here.

The game is clearly designed to be accessible to non-gamers and, as such, it sets you up with a pair of opening games that are so simple that they initially struck me as virtually pointless. The game comes with a suggestion that experienced deck-builder-players jump straight to game 3, and this is definitely a move I’d endorse. The one caveat would be for children – although the box says age 11+, we played this with my friend’s children, and whilst the 9 year-old seemed to take it in her stride, I think the 6 year-old found it a bit overwhelming.

Your character (Harry, Ron, Hermione or Neville) has a health total, but you only get stunned rather than KO-ed, which again leans this in the non-gamer/family-friendly direction. The turn structure is very simple – you reveal a Dark Arts card, you trigger powers on the active Villain(s), then you play cards to generate attack (beat up villains), restore health, and gain influence (the game’s currency), which you can then use to recruit new “Hogwarts Cards.”

It’s very swingy – each game/Hogwarts Year adds new Villains, new Dark Arts cards, and new Hogwarts cards, to the point where the Hogwarts deck is massive and bloated, giving you no way to guess reliably which cards you’ll see. Up until game 5, the Villains also appear in an entirely arbitrary order, leading to slightly anticlimactic situations where you eventually overpower Tom Riddle and the Basilisk, but need to spend a few more rounds facing off against Crabb and Goyle before you can go home.

MonsterBoxOfMonstersAs clunky as it is, it does a great job on theme, which is probably why my wife and I ended up playing it 4 times on the day I introduced her to it. The fact that she was mid-way through another rewatch of the films probably helped.

I’m still not 100% sure on what the best thing to do with this long-term is: it’s clearly designed to play through as a progression, but I’m still making my mind up on where the sweet spot is for repeated plays. It will definitely be sticking around, and I might even pick up the expansion, which adds lots of wild animals, a deck-thinning mechanic, and even lets you play as Luna, (although I’ve heard bad things about the detention mechanic – Legendary players, think Wounds with no KO option).

 

Rolling in the Lost Realms

One thing I did manage to do in February, was get some games of Dice Masters in. This is a game that had been in hibernation for a good 6 months or more, but had attracted a bit of attention with the new draft packs. Essentially these are designed as a 1-per-person purchase which give you a set of cards to draft from, but also supply your basic actions for the game and, more importantly, give you 2 dice per card, ensuring that people can actually build teams with a meaningful degree of synergy.

D&Dice
Dragon, because Shiny Dragon. It was the 2 ladies underneath who actually did most of the work.

It was a D&D set that we were drafting, meaning that most of the characters/alignments and keywords were pretty unfamiliar for me, but I managed to put together a decent team, relying on some 2-cost swarm characters that boosted each other, and a character who gave all the “NPCs” (“Sidekicks” for those who’ve played the comic-book versions of the game) extra attack and defence. I also had a blocking character who was able to swap attack and defence when fielded, and a large fire-breathing dragon who only actually came out once all night. In both of the rounds we played, I managed to win my game, and win a friendly that we decided to play because the other pair had barely got going. It was a team that went fast and wide, and would definitely have got ground down if things dragged on too long.

I really like playing Dice Masters, even if I don’t get too many opportunities to play it, and it was nice to remember that I’m actually not too bad at it (although, in fairness, one of my opponents hadn’t played in over a year). I can’t imagine that I’ll get hundreds of opportunities to play this year, but it would be nice if another event or two came along.

 

The Big Picture

By time, February breaks down remarkably neatly, with Lovecraft, Zombies and Fantasy all occupying ¼ each. Of the remainder, Magic is the biggest theme with 12%. By sessions, Lovecraft and Fantasy are slightly larger, whilst Zombies join Magic on a mere 15%. Within Fantasy, it was a bit of a mish-mash, with no clear leading category.

 

Money

Money-wise, there are still some big short-fallers. Gloomhaven, Shadows of Brimstone, Apocrypha (in roughly that order) remain big negatives, although I’m pleased that (for the moment), there’s nothing in the red for 2018 itself, with Arkham play keeping well ahead of the influx of packs. The all-time totals are starting to drop again, although they remain high. There’s a Lord of the Rings pack due imminently that would briefly push me into the red, but it will probably be the last one I buy, so that’s not a long-term concern. I’m getting review copies of the new Elder Sign and Eldritch Horror expansions, which will help keep things in the black overall.

 

Looking forward

Masks
A challenge fit to drive anyone mad: correctly spelling and/or pronouncing Nyarlathotep!

March should have a lot of Arkham Files content to keep things busy, with as-yet-unplayed content for 4 of the 5 games either already here, or due in the very near future. There’s also a lot more Green Horde stuff to dig into, and a couple of slightly weird review-games that need sorting. Now that the whole business with the car seems sorted, hopefully I’ll be able to post a bit more actively than I have in recent weeks.

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.