Arkham Horror Horror

Arkham Horror Horror

Not the most original of comics, I know. We haven’t actually had the opportunity to play many games at all these past few weeks – besides one game of Arkham, it’s just been Pandemic Legacy. And while Pandemic Legacy is one of the most tense, exciting, brain-burning, and brilliant board game experiences we have ever had, it has had more than its fair share of coverage in our comics already.

By the way, if you are playing Legacy, and have gotten past April, check out this old comic of ours. We made it just after Pandemic Legacy was announced, and only just realised how inadvertently prescient it was.

 

Meanwhile, in Arkham … much like Fantasy Flight’s flagship LCG Netrunner, it took us a few games of the Arkham Horror LCG to actually get our head around the rules, how it plays, and how you need to play it to stand any chance of winning – or even surviving a scenario.

The gameplay is not that complicated, it’s just that the mechanisms are not that intuitive. The rulebook is also written to cater for years’ worth of expansion, and new mechanics, so by necessity it is more detailed than it needs to be for just the core set, even including several timing charts. There is a quick ‘learn to play’ guide, which is useful, but at the same time won’t take you very far.

Unusually for an LCG (Limited Card Game, if you are unfamiliar with the term, it means that instead of random boosters to increase your collection, the game uses set decks of new cards released regularly), it is a co-op game. Two players fight their way through a nightmarish stew of Lovecraft-ian settings, monsters, and horrors, all distilled into one convenient encounter deck.

The thing the game does so well, though, and what ultimately broke our resolution to never touch either CCGs or LCGs, is that each time you play, you are playing through a story-driven scenario. It is guided by ‘Act’ and ‘Event’ cards, which tell the story, and also time the game. The clock is always ticking, as you race to discover clues and fend off winged ghouls. Each expansion (typically around 15 LCEs (Local Currency Equivalent)) gives you another scenario to play through. They include cards to add to your deck, which allow you to level your characters up between sessions.

Deck-building, co-op, and campaign games are my three favourite types of game. So, despite the collectible nature of it, I was never really going to be able to resist its siren call, which could have been designed specifically to lure me onto the rocks of excessive acquisition and poverty. Collecting further expansions to continue the story of your investigators is fine though, great even.

The issue I have is with the assortment of cards with the base game. The core box provides five investigators, and cards to build decks for two of these investigators at a time, but only in select combinations. You can play Roland Banks and Agnes Baker, for example, but you can’t combine Agnes with Daisy – they use a similar card type in their decks. Even this I am fine with. Five investigators is generous, as is allowing all of the deck archetypes to be played with straight out of the box.

The issue is with the deck-building. If you want to go even slightly beyond what is suggested and craft a custom deck out of the core box, you will very quickly hit a brick wall, and the only way around that obstacle is to buy a second copy of the core set, something I will not do out of principle. I am willing to buy future expansions (there are already a lot) and over time, this will allow me to customise my deck. With time, I will have a wealth of options. But having basically no options out of the box feels like it’s just asking players to go for a second core set, and that can’t help but feel a little dirty.

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Hold the line

Writer_smallerMore miniatures

My slide back into the pit of miniatures gaming has been slow, but not completely surprising. The signs were there. Technically, in fact, I am already there, and have been for some time. X-Wing probably accounts for a good 50% of our gaming time so far in 2016. And as much as I was fond of telling myself otherwise, it is a miniatures game. The squad sizes are tiny, and you don’t have to paint a thing. There isn’t even any terrain or giant gaming boards to worry about. All this helped in the lie, as I bought ship after ship after ship. ‘It’s just because I like Star Wars!’ I would tell myself. But I can no longer lie to myself. Well, not about this, anyway.

But a man has to have principles, even if they are principles that are picked up on the retreat from previously held ones. So, for now, I hold firm to one last line: no more blind booster packs. Even if I helplessly expand existing games with more units, expansions, rules, figures, paints, cards, I can still hold on to one thing: I will know up front what I am buying, and I know that it is useful to me. My purchases won’t be blind, and my collection will be finite.

That’s a principle, right?

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Wild Hunt for Foil Rares

Writer_smallerWild Hunt for Foil Rares

I talked last week about not having enough time to play all the board games I wanted to play. Such is the imbalance between playing time and board games we have yet to play, that we have had to put a moratorium on buying any more board games It’s not going to last, of course. In fact, if you saw how excited I was that the makers of Star Realms have a Kickstarter for a new card game, you’d know that it’s not even going to be adhered to while it lasts.

But it’s the thought that counts, and moratorium is too good a word not to use. Even if it is essentially meaningless, in this instance.

Gwent, for those unfamiliar, is a collectible card game available to play, and of course, collect, in The Witcher 3. Collectible card games can be expensive, and time consuming. In the strict confines of an already-paid-for video game, the expense is removed from the equation. But with a huge map to uncover, players in every town, and 150+ cards to find, the time cost is as tangible as if the game were a real, cardboard, sleevable thing.

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Star Wars: Armada

Writer_smallerStar Wars: Armada

A Star Wars ship combat game on the scale of Armada probably appeals more to me than X-Wing. The more salient concern, however, is all the X-Wings on our gaming shelf, unmarked by combat. Rarely ever flown at all, in fact. Turns out the downside of a collectible or a miniatures game is less the expense, and more the time required to play it over and again with all the additions and expansions. With so many incredible games being released all the time, it’s harder and harder to get replay value out of the games we already own. Of course, this is a problem entirely of our own making. And it’s a lack of restraint that is the main ingredient of that problem. There are just so many good games out there. We haven’t even gotten around to buying Imperial Assault yet, and our Risk: Legacy campaign is currently experiencing a ceasefire. Not a truce, or even negotiations. It’s just looking like we might be embedded for a while longer than first anticipated. Bloody great game, though.

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We interrupt this broadcast . . .

Writer_smallerA deluge of dice

A short post this week, but normal service will resume next week. I’ve spent the week putting the finishing touches to a local comic anthology that I am editing, so my time has been stretched too thin to hold anything more than a brief post for this week’s comic.

Unfortunately, when my time is pulled in different directions, gaming tends to be the first casualty, so tomorrow will be the first chance I have had to play anything in a while. Tomorrow night at gaming we will be returning to Legendary Encounters: Alien. Two weeks in a row this game has really kicked our asses, so this week we are determined to turn the tables. Third time lucky, I guess. Except for Alien movies. If our luck follows that trend, we’re doomed. In any case, I expect to be writing some more about Legendary Encounters in the coming weeks.

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A vicious circle

Writer_smallerA vicious circle

My blog post is a little scattered this week, for a more coherent, and relevant-to-the-comic piece of writing, skip to Aileen’s post below.

Still with me? How generous.  Have some kind thoughts, free of charge, and don’t act like I didn’t warn you when I skip from talking about games to maybe that should read “writing about” rather than “talking about.”

Anyway.

At the time of posting, there will only be a few hours left in the Jack Vasel Memorial Fund auction. Tiny Wooden Pieces is auctioning a chance to appear in our comic, and to receive a colour, signed print of this comic. Bid here, and learn about the charity here. Please do support this any way you can. But be warned, some crazy person has already bid more than $200 on it. If this is too rich for your blood, or you have no interest in being made fun of on an internet comic about board games (sorry people-who-already-bid, no take-backsies) then there are plenty of actual board games you can bid on as well.

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Games night – A night to remember

Writer_smallerMagic: The Gathering

Please don’t get the wrong impression from the comic. I don’t begrudge Magic its popularity. I think it’s amazing. A phenomenon like that can only be good for hobby games of any sort, whether they are board, card, or war. It raises the profile, brings in profits, brings in players.

According to Wizards of the Coast, Magic has more than six million players. That is literally more people than the country I live in. Yes, Ireland is a small country, but that is still a ludicrous number of players, and a huge income for hobby stores. What helps gaming stores, helps everyone involved in the hobby. Not just that, though. I feel Magic: The Gathering is actually an important game, and not just for the bottom line of my local game stores.

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X-Wing – Swarm tactics

Writer_smallerSwarm tactics

This week’s comic is about the X-Wing Miniatures game. In particular it refers to the Swarm army list for the game. More on that below, as I’d love to talk a little about the game itself first…

I do my best to avoid miniatures games. Games Workshop was my introduction to gaming, and growing up I loved the science fiction universe, the character of the armies, and the real challenge the game brought to the table. What I didn’t love was the expense (or the painting, if I’m honest). Spending more than €50 on a base game and then needing to spend 3-4 times that to then field a reasonable army was then, and still is, too much for me.

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MDM – Investigative journalism

Writer_smallerMarvel Dice Masters

‘The big retailers got all the copies’.

‘They are purposefully short-shipping to create demand’.

People love a conspiracy, or any kind of story. The simple fact is that Marvel Dice Masters is a product that meets at an almost unique crossroads of demand right now. Gaming is going through a boom, so there’s that.  It’s a collectible game, those are particularly big right now. As though that wasn’t enough, it’s based around Marvel superheroes. How big are they right now? Have you been to the cinema lately? And finally, just to ensure no-one escapses, the booster packs are a Dollar. Just one. One Dollar! Who’s not gonna walk into a games store and not pick up one booster. Or two, or three, or more. I mean, c’mon. They’re a Dollar.

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