Hall or Nothing Productions Ltd: September 2014

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

No more games - play what you’ve got! Part 6, MISSION FAILED!!! I BOUGHT NEW GAMES!!!

Part 1: No more new games - play what you’ve got!

Part 2, Return of the Living Deck Builders

The Not Nearly As Thumbed Part 3, Hang On – Some Of These Aren’t Even On The List

Part 4, But You Can’t Just Throw Away Gifts, Obviously…

Part 5, Part 5, Fortune and Zombies, Kid

I’ve banned new games from being purchased in 2014 to allow us a year to play through all the games we’ve already got.  If a brilliant, must-have game emerges this year I’ll just have to wait to see if it survives a few months of fair reviewing and the cult of the new to become a lasting classic, and if so I should theoretically have no problem picking it up in 2015 anyway. 

So here follows a list of the games we’ve managed to play recently to try and get through the remaining part of our games collection.  Looks like we’ve caught up a bit but if we’re going to play everything by year’s end, we’ll still have to try to fit in multiple games in one session, or maybe see if we can have some day sessions. 


Everything has fallen apart a bit.  Unfortunately, staying abreast of and involved in the gaming hobby has led me down some dark pathways and has supplied me with way more information about new games than I was able to contain without bursting at the seams and breaking my own code!  That’s right, 9 months in and I couldn’t even last until Christmas.  Bad enough that I’ve bought expansions (e.g. DC Crisis expansion – rather excellent by the way), but no, I had to go and blow the whole thing and purchase not just one but TWO new board games in the past week alone!

What?  Why you looking at me like that?  We moved house last week too, okay?  I’ve been under a lot of pressure!  :D

Anywho.  Here are the ‘irresistible’ culprits:

Shadowrun: Crossfire – thank you very much, Rahdo, your stupidly infectious enthusiasm alone pretty much broke me on this one.
Legendary Encounters: An Alien Deck Building Game – an Alien themed card game?  Seriously how on earth was I supposed to resist this?  They couldn’t have held out on releasing it until Christmas???

Only had a chance to run through them a few times solo so far and I have to say they both appear to be pretty excellent.  More detailed rundown once we get the chance to table them ‘properly.’

Ah well, at least I lasted as long as I did.  In any case, these other old games still need playing through before the year’s out or we’ll have achieved absolutely nothing at all.  Unless you count the great time we’ve had going through our entire back catalogue of games, but, tsk, you know, who counts THAT? 

Sorry for all the Caps but I think this one off (ahem) situation warranted it.

So, in case any of you are not disgusted enough to have clicked away already at my craven weakness, here is what we gone done playeded recently:

Dungeon Command

We have Tyranny of Goblins but have discovered that they seem to be the weakest and least balanced of all the armies; whoever plays them loses so we left them out.  First match was in a dungeon - Undeath (me) versus Gruumsh (Sam).  Sam’s orc powerhouses were quickly outmatched and whenever he was able to field any big guys I brought them down in short order with various sneaky necromantic effects.  Then we played on the outdoor tiles with Drow versus Cormyr, wherein Sam’s Drow douchebags racked up a swift and tidy victory against my erstwhile heroic bastards.  I kept hiding out in the trees and popping out of cover to try and bust some heads, but his ranged attacks kept peppering me as I did so and before long my warriors and knights were tripping over each other to see who could get slaughtered first.

For some reason, the miniature skirmish fantasy theme of Dungeon Command doesn’t really appeal to me that much.  As with Magic the Gathering, I just don’t enjoy the abstract nature of a bunch of semi random monsters getting together to fight a bunch of semi random monsters with next to no background on how or why or when, etc.  I think I just prefer questing heroes on adventures in this kind of milieu - games like the D&D Adventure System games, which is why I bought the Dungeon Command games in the first place of course.  Or maybe it’s because DC is missing the variable mission goals of other similar skirmish games like Descent 2.0.  That said it just feels like a lot more fun than Descent 2.0, and the dice-less card play just feels neater, with tons of cool and surprising effects, instead of having to roll that bloody ‘miss’ die in Descent.

DC can be a bit swingy too, and once you’re losing it’s hard to pull back, though not impossible.  The tiles and miniatures are excellent, the game play is fast paced, and overall, despite my reservations, and expectations that this would simply be expansion material for the Adventure System games, Dungeon Command is one of the better miniatures games available, and I hope WOTC look to supporting it in future, like they are going to do with the other D&D board games.  I put together a more detailed review here:

Sam says: “I think Dungeon Command could be slightly better with scaling throughout the game.  There’s too much luck with the creatures you draw early on and it can create a really one sided game.  I really do enjoy it though.”

Players = 2
Expansions = Blood of Gruumsh, Heart of Cormyr, Sting of Lolth, Curse of Undeath
Games played in 2014 = 2
Rating in 2013 = 8
Rating in 2014 = 8

 Lords of Waterdeep

I got a 40 point quest that I ignored for most of the game, but with the Undermountain expansion you get tons more opportunities to play Intrigue and draw and gain more Intrigue, and I was getting ridiculously big handfuls of the stuff, including ones which allowed me to draw three more Intrigue, until I had about 9 cards in hand.  I was just playing them down every time I could and not really bothering about quests yet.  Sam and his missus (she doesn’t usually like games except for LoW, and it’s very easy for non-gamers to pick up) rushed ahead of me and were squabbling over first place every turn.  I played Revealed Lord so they couldn’t ‘get’ me, and they just played mandatory quests and attacks on each other instead.  Eventually I’d amassed enough stuff to start going at my quests and I kept using Intrigues to play extra pawns onto my own buildings.  Since they didn’t want me to get my own building benefits and were avoiding my places I just scooped up the extra dudes that were sitting there.  At one point Sam (cheers dude) reminded me there was a building in Builder’s Hall which allowed you to play 3 Intrigue cards at once. 

Expansion definitely gives the game the boost it needs to stay in rotation for us, and I look forward to trying out the corruption business with Skullport next time we play.  We might even opt for the long game with both expansions mixed in too.

Sam says: “I think LoW is better with more players and it’s a bit of a party game more than a full on geek session.  I really enjoy playing it though and I think the expansion adds some more depth to it.”

Players = 3
Expansions = Scoundrels of Skullport: Undermountain
Games played in 2014 = 1
Rating in 2013 = 8
Rating in 2014 = 7.5


Tales of the Arabian Nights

I looked at the 9 rating for this game after playing it and thought it needs addressing.  Tales of the Arabian Nights is a 10.  Every single game is unique and interesting and provides a crazy tapestry of interwoven stories that allow you to - for example (as in my case) - end up as a divorced sultan beast gourmet.  The graphic design, presentation, replayability and depth of encounters, theme and just overall gorgeousness of this game cannot be overstated.  One of the most beautiful games in my collection.  It’s not a game you’ll play every day, it’s a long game unless you opt for a lower Story/Destiny point winning condition, you have to have a house rule about the unwieldy amount of statuses you can have (ours: three at a time maximum, first in first out), and there are those who would, albeit heretically, tell you this is not a game.  Well, they’re wrong because it is.  We’ve had games that have come down to the nail and we’ve been a turn away from winning when someone has snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.  Or whatever.  Or we’ve had games like this one, where I was racing ahead the whole game and still won at the end.  But the utterly insane misadventures befalling Sam’s Aladdin throughout the game were equally hilarious to my own, and we actually got to explore a few places of power this time around, which is always new and exciting.  The Litmus test is really this:
There is a ’Storm’, and you choose to ‘Drink’.
Player A will say ‘Drink the Storm?  That’s stupid, this game am suck.’
Player B’s hero will see the storm coming and start drinking heavily, and in doing so will enjoy the game’s 1,001 delights.

Sam says: “I would say that this is not a board game in the conventional context.  Yes there is a board and it’s a game but really when it comes down to it, it is a story which you play.  I’m a little put off by the abstract nature of some of the encounters and the time it takes to resolve an encounter but this does add a plethora of variety which is great in anyone’s opinion.  There is a heavy amount of luck in this game but there never seems to be the inevitable “you’re dead” encounters which often go hand in hand with luck based games. 

I enjoy the way you start from humble beginnings and essentially level up as the game progresses but it still feels a bit like when one person takes an early lead it is difficult to catch up.  I also enjoy the way that you constantly have a goal with the quest cards and city cards so you never feel like you are just wandering round.
Even though I lost I still had fun playing this which mostly comes down to your character’s story.  There isn’t much player interaction which is a negative for me but I still take pleasure in finding out what is happening to the other players.”

Players = 2
Games played in 2014 = 1
Rating in 2013 = 9
Rating in 2014 = 10


Call of Cthulhu: Living Card Game

I didn’t buy into this game too far.  In fact it was a CCG not an LCG back when I bought it, and it felt like a re-themed Magic the Gathering at the time, which wasn’t something I was looking to get into, having jumped from the Magic train many years ago.  We played CoC CCG quite a bit at the time, I bought an extra expansion pack or two, but our real interest lay in the broader experience provided by Arkham Horror, rather than the Vs battle game which this turned out to be.
So it was that we dusted off the box for this little old card game.  I was the investigators, Sam played Cthulhu and his cronies.  We had a quick recap on the rules, not too complex thankfully (we just have so many card games now it’s hard to remember how many cards you start with in your hand, usually 6 I reckon).  We fed our domains some resources and off we rolled.  It’s a lot of fun!  Investigators are fragile little things which often go insane or dead, but they also have plenty of tricks up their sleeves to pull the rug out from underneath Hastur’s feet so to speak.  Every time Sam sent one of my guys screaming off into the hills, I managed to retaliate with, for example, a satisfying Shotgun Blast which would take out some nasty hell spawn with good old hot lead.  We competed hotly for progress tokens on the various stories, and the bluffing back and forth about what we may or may not have in our hands reminded me a little of the Star Wars LCG Fate battles too. 
It was really hand wringing stuff trying to decide whether or not to activate a story’s special ability once you’d achieved it, sometimes it would pay off, other times it would bite you in the ass.  Wiping out your opponent’s creatures along with your own, only to see him replenish them entirely on his next turn, well, that can be a soul sapping experience!

Sam says: “This is one which disappeared off our radar for a long time and having played a couple of games back to back I can’t understand why. 
This game covers so many bases when it comes to what I look for, including but not limited to; resource management, player interaction, forward planning, multiple challenges in fights (means you can win without just being the strongest), boons/detriments from successful completion of a task (all players can receive a bonus or get screwed over) and great artwork.
This is actually a really fun game to play and although you are in direct competition with your opponent you can still take pleasure in seeing them pull out some awesome combos.  None of your characters are safe - even the strongest - and the game can swing from dire straits to success based on the draw of some cards.  I would actually like to play this again sometime soon.  Shame about our stupid ‘play everything’ rule!”

Players = 2
Games played in 2014 = 2
Rating in 2013 = 7
Rating in 2014 = 7

Lord of the Rings

This is the non FFG edition.  As usual I had to again look up the feature card distribution rules for 2 players and a couple of other rules which I should just write down somewhere.  But once the rules faffing was over we embarked properly on our adventure.  I have to say I really like this game.  The theme, the art, the coop, the events, the resource management.  I’m not overly fond of all the pieces, the big plastic ring, the athematic white cones, the unimaginative iconography (black dots, oh and white dots too), and the breakfast cereal gift quality minis.  But the John Howe art rescues that.  And the gameplay really captures the feeling of the hobbits struggling against the corrupting influences of Sauron and the One Ring.  It’s tricky to learn, but simple to play, and even the easy setting provides a good challenge, especially if you haven’t played in a few years.  Case in point – we had a bad run of events early on and actually failed Moria, which I can’t remember ever doing previously.  I was Frodo, and Sam was Sam, and we quickly palmed the ring off onto him.  Churning through our hands pretty quickly didn’t help, and failing Moria meant we raced along the Corruption track.  We actually managed to reach Mordor and even make some serious headway on the side tracks, picking up more allies and life tokens, but we only made it to 55 points along the main track before we fell to the power of the ring.  Sauron ate up Sam, who was still the Ring bearer, so Frodo turned home alone, in failure.  I honestly would have been happy to have another go and see if we could bag a win, but we still have many other board games to play through yet.

Players = 2
Games played in 2014 = 1
Rating in 2013 = 8
Rating in 2014 = 7

Talisman 2nd edition

We have all the 2nd ed expansions except for Dragons.  In fact I only bagged the Talisman Adventure (I think, could have been the Expansion? The one with the Halfling) a couple of years ago on eBay, shuffled it into the game, but haven’t touched it since.  So despite my having played this probably hundreds of times as a youngster, there were actually a few cards that appeared in this game which I’d never seen before, such as the mysterious Halloween event, and the Strength 3 Berserker who you can’t actually kill, he just wanders off after the fight.  We left aside the City and Timescape expansions just for brevity, but added in the Dungeon for shits and giggles.  A fatal mistake I now feel…
We drew 4 heroes each and chose our faves.  Sam was the Warrior of Chaos, I was the Elf.  Despite having drawn the superior Monk, Minotaur and Valkyrie, I always used to love being the Elf when we played Talisman when I was a kid.  I clearly thought at the time that nipping around the Woods spaces in the Outer Region was the Best Thing Ever.  With hindsight he’s pretty under-powered compared to the other Talisman heroes.  But 2nd edition Talisman is not about balanced heroes, or economical power-mongering.  It’s very much a ‘roll’-playing.  And roll we did.  For once the fates were with me as I Monopoly-moved my way around the board, gathering early allies (prince and unicorn), magic items (belt of strength), and a nice axe to craft a raft with and sail to the Middle Region (once I’d had my fun nipping around the Woods spaces of course).  I reached the Wizard’s Cave and the quest was to deliver a Magic Item so I traded straight away for a Talisman and was well on my way, I just needed to focus on boosting my stats.  Sam’s poor Chaos Warrior meanwhile, was not having much luck.  Despite gaining a familiar early on, he was unable to get much else, and kept getting wailed on by low level monsters.  Licking his wounds he escaped to the Dungeon and I pretty much forgot about him as I dominated the Middle Region’s denizens and eyed up the Portal of Power.  My arrogance was to be my downfall though.  Whilst I meandered the Runes, Oasis and Hidden Valley (which soon filled up with Crafty monsters I couldn’t beat individually, let alone as a gang), Sam’s Chaos Warrior found a torch and sped his way through the Dungeon right through the Treasure Chamber and rolled a 6.  He hopped up to the Crown of Command and won the game.  We did play out the final few moves, but he consistently rolled 4-6, and I couldn’t pick the lock on the Portal of Power so it was game over. 
My previously super high rating of Talisman is based (like my HeroQuest rating) on the fact that this game really ushered me into the world of board games, and it would easily have been a 10 when I played it as a child and teenager, when the art and gameplay was simply mind blowing to me and my friends.  I distinctly remember that the kid who originally owned it (the guy who actually ended up selling it to me) used to horribly misplay Blizzard.  Instead of lasting two rounds, all of our characters had to circle the entire outer region twice (i.e. two ‘arounds’) before he’d let us discard it!  Great days.  :laugh:
Though now I would rarely choose to play it (if ever), I see it as a game that could interest my little one in a year or two.  And despite all I’ve said, we had a really good laugh at the ridiculous turn of events, and twist ending that this game provided.  It also didn’t outstay its welcome as it usually does.
But since neither of us had the appetite for another session, we moved on to greener pastures and broke out another game instead.

Players = 2
Expansions = Dungeon, Adventure, Expansion
Games played in 2014 = 1
Rating in 2013 = 9
Rating in 2014 = 6.5


The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game

I need to organise this game better.  I have a massive cardboard card-holding box, but the notion of putting together decks for each scenario is beyond daunting.  So we decided to just go back to the three core scenarios and break out our Dain-led Dwarf synergy decks which had fared so well throughout the Khazad Dum cycle.  Remembering how fricking random it can be and how certain cards and especially shadow effects are simply game ending, and also remembering how our experiences of play-testing this and the next cycle for FFG went south quite fast, and just generally being burnt out on the game overall, we were both pretty reticent about playing through it.  So it was pleasantly surprising that after a few turns of figuring out how to play it again we settled back into the swing of it and soon found ourselves strategizing across each others’ cards and across the table about the different lands and foes we had to take on.  Our fairly hard decks made short work of most obstacles and we pretty much cantered through all three scenarios, with the usual wobble round about when our prisoner (mine of course, Thalin in this case) got taken in Escape from Dol Guldur.  We soon rallied, pasted the Black Rider and raced to freedom.  And, I hold my hands up here, it was very enjoyable.  I remember what I fell in love with about the game when it was first released, and how beautiful the card art is, and I started to think about how it might be nice to get back into it and start collecting the newer cycles.  But then, is that ‘outside of the game’ deck building really any fun for me?  Not really.  And I’m not optimistic about certain scenarios they may or may not have released yet.  That said, overall it’s really quite a stellar game, and though some of the existing scenarios are pretty dull, or badly play-tested/designed, the ones that work well, and especially the ones that scale well to the number of players, those are real winners, and industry leading in their creativity and sheer fun.

Players = 2
Expansions = Mirkwood + Dwarrowdelf Cycles
Games played in 2014 = 3
Rating in 2013 = 8
Rating in 2014 = 8


HeroQuest was kind of a chore, it really is more of a light RPG, and I seem to remember this now having had to GM it all the time over the years.  Sam agreed to be GM this time but he was bored, and as the heroes I was pretty bored too.  We played The Trial, which is a replacement for the incredibly easy original introductory quest The Maze which came in the original quest book.  We chose The Trial because it has a ton of different monsters in, so you get the gamut of the bestiary.  Battered absolutely everything I came across.  Cleared the room.  Searched for everything.  Repeat ad nauseum.  This game has really been hugely out-stripped by modern dungeon crawlers.  I never thought I'd say this, but even Descent is a better game.  Those rose-tinted spectacles of nostalgia are a little cracked now.  I'm sure my boy would get a kick out of it, but I'd have to work up my stamina to get to the point where I could be bothered running a campaign for him.  I totally get why they put 'ages 9+' on the box, and there's a pic of a bunch of 9 year olds on the back.  I can't see it being 'fixed' or any more interesting with the US rules where monsters have extra body points either.  
The furniture and minis and map were absolutely mind blowing when I was a kid, and my favourite Christmas ever still remains the one where I unboxed HeroQuest.  But if I had to be brutally honest, it's dropped from a 9 to about a 6, and that's probably being generous.  If it wasn't in such a shit state I'd probably consider eBaying it.  Although, again there is always that possibility that my son would enjoy it.  I developed quite a complex set of coop campaign rules for HeroQuest so maybe we’ll break them out together sometime.

Players = 2
Games played in 2014 = 1
Rating in 2013 = 9
Rating in 2014 = 6


Space Crusade

Space Crusade was slightly more successful than HeroQuest, surprisingly (I remember I much preferred HeroQuest when I was a young un).  We tried the rules as written with the first mission (kill the dreadnought), in which Sam took in one squad of Blood Angel space marines, which my aliens utterly annihilated before he’d explored the whole board.
So we reset and he took in all three squads of marines – sort of competing them against each other because of the points system - and this time it was a lot more interesting.  There was constant action, back and forth shooting and fighting and slaying.  He was obviously able to cover much more ground and whilst he broke down my forces I was able to whittle away his squads one marine at a time.  By the time he reached the dreadnought it really could have gone either way.  I only had a couple of gretchin left to defend it, but he only had a couple of injured captains remaining (his Blood Angels had been decimated) and I thought I was going to wipe him out.  But the dice went against me and he knocked ED209 down and legged it.  I threw a couple more event cards at him but he successfully reached the docking bays and completed the mission.
But then we totalled up the points, and though one of his squads had done ‘well’ according to the score chart, the aliens achieved an epic points victory.  The decimated Blood Angels scored so low their commanding officer had to go back in on a suicide mission to redeem himself!  I could see us actually having a bash at a proper campaign game of Space Crusade sometime.  But I just don’t see when we’d choose to do that over a game of Doom, Gears of War, or Sedition Wars instead.
Again, another one for the boy.
But two games ticked off and that list is starting to look actually doable!

Players = 2
Games played in 2014 = 2
Rating in 2013 = 8
Rating in 2014 = 6.5


Doom: The Board game

For the first time we played the first online scenario: Blood in the Shadows, by ex-FFG designer Kevin Wilson.  And we threw in the expansion content, just for good measure, knowing it would probably be a while before we play Doom again.  It’s a long time since we played so it was Universal Head’s rules reference to the rescue to get us back into the swing of things.  I took the Invaders whilst Sam sent in his lonely marine to face off against the odds.  I took an even mix of expansion and base game monsters to give maximum spice and we began.  Sam was up against it from the off, racing to escape my casually spawning supply of alien dudes whilst arming himself with whatever he could scavenge. 

Spoiler: the encounters in this scenario are pretty dumb.  One has you jump through an acid bath and back (taking 2 damage) to get a medi-kit which heals 2 damage!  So Soldier Sam was taking some unnecessary extra damage on his travails.  As he nipped through the teleported and searched for the blue key to make good his escape I had some of the bigger monsters smash up (with Smash cards) the main room which had a bunch of blocking obstacles.  Once they’d cleared a path I could manoeuvre pretty much wherever I wanted to.  Time ticked on and Soldier Sam was taking frags every other turn, whilst occasionally blasting away my poor little beasties.  Whilst he was off exploring a random corridor I stacked up the bad guys next to the blue door leading to the final area.  He’d need to blast through them to get away, so with his last life remaining, he valiantly teleported into their midst and threw some grenades…  And missed.  It was space marine soup for dinner that day.  I always remember Doom as being quite complex, and though we had to look up yet another Line of Sight rules set, it actually played a lot quicker and faster than I recalled.  It’s a fun romp, and I think has the edge over Descent because of its speed and ferocity.  Aside from a few skill cards and alien abilities you’re not getting bogged down by referring to a tonne of treasure cards and surge abilities and so on.  Good fun, took a while to play through (even though it’s a fairly short scenario), needs some proper campaign play to get through those scenario books.  There’s also a load of fan content available for it too, and I’d like to play through the original Doom map levels that some BGG genius put together some time.  It does feel a little clunky compared to newer offerings however, and I think Gears of War wins out in terms of component art, tension, cooperative play, and general innovation.

Players = 2
Expansions = Doom: The Boardgame Expansion Set
Games played in 2014 = 1
Rating in 2013 = 8
Rating in 2014 = 7.5


Dungeons & Dragons: The Legend of Drizzt Board Game

Sam played Drizzt for the first time - presumably I’d played him every other time, on the occasions when we actually allowed him in the game because of his game-breaking awesomeness.  I took Bruenor for his excellent head-butting ability (take 1 damage to do 1 damage) and nifty stances.  We decided to go balls-deep and immediately chase after the big bad balrog/balor dude in the final adventure.  Without time to get into a campaign game using our copious house rules, we just settled on drawing Castle Ravenloft monster tokens to populate tiles (essential), and shuffled together all the treasures from all three D&D games (essential).  Oh, and we threw in the Vierna Do’Urden promo which a kind BGGer donated to me some time back, because, heh, what are the chances she’d turn up anyway?
So in our first tile Vierna Do’Urden turns up, shortly followed by the ‘draw 4 monsters’ token from Legend of Drizzt, which sort of set the scene for the rest of the adventure.  Trolls jumped out at us, along with Dinin, and the Underdark sent everything it could at our brave adventurers in order to wipe their sorry faces from the world of Faerun.  We ran and ran, and fought and looted, and levelled up and hooted, got suited and booted, then battled and rooted, before finally bumping into the balor himself.  Not taking kindly to our invasion of his home and slaughter of all his scurrying little friends he whipped and sliced at us whilst we ran around looking for some water elementals to kill so we could place their watery remains on his throne which would deal a shit ton of damage to him.  Obviously.  Despite burning through our healing surges and most of our HP, with careful use of our accrued XP we kept the traps and nasty encounters at bay, and ran circles around him, eventually smashing up the elementals and placing their water trays on his throne.  The balor stomped towards my Bruenor who was sitting on his throne taunting him for the showdown, with Drizzt nipping at his heels with his twin scimitars of death.  As the monstrous demon raised his flaming sword in order to strike down furious vengeance upon my stubborn old dwarf, Bruenor flung himself headlong at the gigantic evil monstrosity and did what any self respecting dwarf king would do in the same circumstances: head-butted the evil balor in the nuts, vanquishing him from the material plane and back to the abyss from whence he came.  Whooping and victory!  :) 

Love these D&D games, so tense, and quick playing, with as much depth as you want to add to them, great components, and such elegant simplicity.  I have a bunch of Kick Started dungeon crawlers en route at some point in the future, and they will all have a long way to go to reach the dizzy heights of the D&D adventure system games’ pure monster bashing fun.  Roll on D&D AS Game Number 4 next year…

Players = 2
Expansions = Vierna Do’Urden Promo
Games played in 2013 = 5
Games played in 2014 = 1
Rating in 2013 = 9
Rating in 2014 = 9


Return of the Heroes

Sam wanted to take the dwarf for a spin, but the only thing I could remember about this game is that the dwarf is an inordinate slowpoke and should be avoided at all costs.  So he went with the fighter instead, and I took the mage.  There is no really comprehensive rules reference for this game unfortunately, and having set up and aborted this game just a few weeks ago, I flailed through the official rules (oh god I forgot how bad they are - written from the perspective of the characters, with no way of referencing any rules – Argh!), the re-written fan rules, and the couple of fan reference sheets available, and still couldn’t find the few rules I needed to look up during play.  Luckily a few ancient BGG posts came to our rescue for rules lookups, and I was occasionally surprised to find myself contributing to said rules discussions from years ago.  Anyway, to the game.  Those tiles are beautiful.  I love the simplicity and elegance of it all, with counters explaining everything you need.  Although the counters are not as pretty as the tiles, they do sort of fit the Euro/fantasy design style, what with the wooden ‘experience cubes’ and ‘gold/wood coins’.  And it’s a compelling game once you get going.  I wasn’t really looking forward to giving this a whirl, and it was close to trade pile consideration.  I’ve also never properly played through the Under the Shadow of the Dragon expansion, which I have, but which we didn’t use.  But once we were moving around, looking for secret paths, uncovering adventure tiles and missions and bad guys and NPCs and forgetting to draw replacement tiles from the bag but remembering a little later, we were both racing along at a clip to power up and take on the Nameless.  We opted for most of the intro game set up rules, which meant the Nameless was the Shadow, and we both got our suggested characters’ quests.  Also noted the subconscious slight similarities to Fantasy Quest’s Sagas.  :whistle:
Sam’s fighter was levelling up faster and I was struggling to keep up, even though I finished my character quest first.  Once I discovered the stubborn old broomstick I thought I’d start closing the gap, but it backfired on me a couple of times, taking me far from my goal.  So I made a stab at walking towards the nameless with my shiny new boots.  However, Sam’s fighter pulled a fast one and using the Land Swap teleporter device he yoinked the Nameless’ very homeland from under my disbelieving eyes and placed it right next to him.  I turned on my heel and raced back in the other direction, using the broom stick this time to try and make up lost time.  But it was too late.  The brave fighter wandered through the token guardian (he would draw the strength guardian being the fighter and all wouldn’t he?!) bodyguard and sauntered up to the Nameless Shadow.  A quick, bloody and brutal battle ensued, with the Nameless Shadow going down like a sack of lead balloons.  The land was saved from evil and the heroic fighter returned home to riches and glory.  Meanwhile the disappointed mage wandered off into the swamps to make himself a new home away from the stress and hubbub of medieval social life, and the scurrilous accusations of laziness and cowardice from the mean peasants and goodwives.
It’s a good, fun game, will be great for my little on when he’s older, tons less random than Talisman, with a much more streamlined combat and levelling system, and nice sturdy Euro rules to it.  Definitely a keeper, though somewhat dwarfed by more modern fantasy adventure offerings such as the Lord of the Rings LCG.

Players = 2
Games played in 2014 = 1
Rating in 2013 = 7
Rating in 2014 = 7

Space Hulk: Death Angel – the card game

I remember how punishing that die is.  Well, this time it treated us okay.  We printed off the essential Universal Head reference sheet to remind us what the hell we were doing and then chucked all of our poor space marines into the meat grinder that is Space Hulk.  This is so much better than the board game, even if the pieces aren’t as nice.  The Aliens swarmed all around us and picked off our dudes one by one, as we worked inexorably towards our objective.  It’s interesting how the objective mechanics of this game fed into Gears of War.  Some of the game elements in SH: DA I just don’t like.  My guy moved last turn so now he can’t move this turn?  Yeah, it’s not that thematic, and makes it feel very much more puzzley than anything.  Which isn’t a bad thing for what it is, and as a balancing mechanism it works great.  We actually managed to beat this scenario with all of our leaders intact, having sacrificed most of our regular dudes to the brood lords and their cronies.  So, a precious victory over a usually savage little game.  At £19.99 this is great value for money, and I often think about picking up my own copy for solo play (since this is actually Sam’s game).

Players = 2
Games played in 2014 = 1
Rating in 2013 = 8
Rating in 2014 = 7 


Descent: 2nd Edition: Regular Version Vs. Forgotten Souls

Having played through a rather disappointing campaign of 2nd edition there was much that we enjoyed about it, but that it all came down to “who can roll the least number of Xs?” made it a bit of a damp squib.  The race aspect was new and interesting for a while, but definitely removed that sense of dungeon crawling.  The smaller maps meant you could get through more scenarios than 1st edition, but the scenarios were less fulfilling.  The character progression was pretty cool, and that the Overlord could tailor their deck too was great.  But since Descent essentially became a skirmish battle game with variable objectives, it just didn’t feel like the dungeon crawler we wanted it to be.  So it got hugely relegated.  We never broke it out for any of the one-off scenarios because playing without the campaign seemed completely pointless, and we were in no hurry to fire up a 20+ hour campaign of a slightly average game.  We did not go back to 1st edition either.  The quests were long,  I spent quite some time trying to make 1st edition fit into a coop/solo mode which we played to death, but the D&D Adventure System games beat Descent 1.0 and 2.0 outright as far as we were concerned. 
Until Shnar came out with his very compelling review of the new retro-fitted-cooperative expansion for Descent 2.0.  So after finding it fairly cheap online (it’s an expansion remember, expansions don’t count as new games :P) we played a quick, boring scenario of the ‘regular’ Descent 2.0 rules (the asinine one where goblins run off the map whilst a cave troll gets wailed on by heroes – Sam’s heroes beat the game in two turns) to refresh our memories on the mechanics and then settled down with the Forgotten Souls rules.  Instantly it was more compelling, with mini goals on each tile, and nasty little monsters with sneaky tactics cards lifted almost directly from the excellent Gears of War mechanics.  Our two heroes were up against it straight away, and every tile was hard fought for as we progressed through the dungeon, improving slightly over the course of the adventure with the new levelling-up rules, which it has to be said are slightly clunky and unintuitive – clearly a result of the retrofitted coop game design rather than building new rules from scratch.  Once you get your heads around it though it starts to play pretty fast, and you’re soon agonising over the use of hero abilities, and pretty much getting stomped.  We made fairly significant progress over the 2-3 hours that we played but not nearly enough to approach a win, and we were slaughtered on a creative but fairly unwinnable encounter which came up about two tiles before the final encounter.  Overall, we enjoyed this a lot more than regular Descent, and this is probably how it will see the table again next time.  And I’ll certainly be looking at the next big box expansion if it’s going to follow the same coop format that FFG have been hinting at. 
Does Forgotten Souls save Descent 2.0?  For us, it’s a yes.

Players = 2
Expansions = Forgotten Souls
Games played in 2013 = 10
Games played in 2014 = 2
Rating in 2013 = 6
Rating in 2014 = 7 (caveat: with Forgotten Souls)

Bonus Game Plays!

Shadowrun: Crossfire

Seeing loads of mixed reports on this on BGG and was very interested in the theme of the game and the look of the coop deck builder mechanics.  Difficulty doesn’t usually bother me too much, though I do like a chance at winning.  But some of the rants about it being impossible were concerning.  So as discussed in my last blog I gave it a try anyway solo by printing off the demo cards – a very clever way to get people suckered into the game.  I managed to beat it a few times with just two runners and enjoyed it so much I had to introduce it to Sam.  So we had a couple of runs at it.  We lost the first time pretty badly (he was Ork Mage, I was Human Samurai), caught our breath, complained a bit about the difficulty, then set off again and won the second mission (he was Troll Decker, I was Elf Face).  I’m not a fan of playing multiple characters or hands in games as I find it athematic (must have just read too many Fighting Fantasy game books when I was a kid) so I’d ideally be looking to play this with just one hero per player

And then of course I had the aforementioned total mission fail of picking this one up from my FLGS, so I ended up blasting through it solo.  The full game is much, much harder, and after four games I’ve had one successful Abort and three full arse-smashing Losses.  I’m holding back full judgement until we’ve had more multiplayer plays, but so far it’s pretty brilliant, the card art is amazing, I love the theme and mechanics, even though I’m not massively enamoured with the whole deck building movement (it just seems like some of the best thematic games happen to be deck builders).  Glad I picked it up, in spite of letting myself down!  :D

Players = 2
Games played in 2014 = 11
Rating in 2014 = 7.5


 Eldritch Horror

Received this as a birthday present some months back and tested this out in solo mode with a single hero a couple of times to see how it plays.  It definitely needs more players, and much like Arkham Horror, it suffers with a single investigator, thought it’s slightly more playable that way.  I set out with the sailor Silas, who soon went insane/dead and was replaced by the martial artist.  She went after his corpse and nicked all his loot with the whole ‘loot a dead investigator’ mechanism, which was actually pretty cool.  Due to a good run of clues and, well, luck, she was able to put a stop to Azathoth’s cheeky attempts to devour the universe.  I also had a play-through with my favourite investigator from AH, Mark Harrigan, who seems pretty weak in this game, and soon got roasted by the old ones.  I’ve since shuffled in Forsaken Lore and look forward to the extra variety it will provide.  Look forward to tabling this one properly, because at the moment it definitely seems easier to handle than the gigantic table eating monster that is Arkham Horror…

Players = 1
Expansions = Forsake Lore
Games played in 2014 = 2
Rating in 2014 = 7.5

 DC Comics Deck-Building Game: Crisis Expansion

I’ve mentioned this game a few times before, it was going to my trade pile at one point but then my four year old’s widened eyes at the cover image of Batman made me reconsider.  So glad I did, we’ve played this as a family tons of times now, along with the Heroes Reunite version, which is basically more of the same, but with a load of characters I’ve never heard of.  So the Crisis expansion was a no brainer – coop, more cards, more villains, crises.  Everything is an improvement for me.  The Crisis mode is quite challenging, and takes it from a 30-45 minute lunchtime game into an epic hours-long slog to save the world.  Indeed, it’s taken us a few days to play out some games.  As a family game it rocks, because we’re all working together, and occasionally even my non-gamer wife will get involved and join us to fight the baddies.  But I’d love to give this a proper go with gamer friends and see how it holds up.  Thematically it makes tons more sense that you’re actually now fighting and defeating villains rather than adding them to your deck.  Though I never really had a problem with that previously (I sort of saw it as adding ‘experience’ to your deck instead of having the Penguin turn up and help you), it’s quite satisfying to literally Kick a villain out of the game.  The Crises themselves are imaginative and do strange things to your deck, which makes puzzling out how to defeat them quite challenging, especially when some of the Crisis villains are very difficult to defeat too.  We’ve chalked up a single victory so far, but it’s added loads of mileage to the game for me and I’m always happy to break it out for the little one.  So it gains half a point for the Crisis expansion, maybe more if it holds water with my gaming buddies too.

Players = 2-3
Expansions = Crisis Expansion (Pack 1)
Games played in 2014 = 10+
Rating in 2013 = 7
Rating in 2014 = 7.5


Pathfinder: Adventure Card Game

Still chasing the dream on this one.  I actually soloed Valeros all the way through the Rise of the Runelords campaign and it was really good fun.  There’s very much a strange point where you’re racing through the scenarios just to build your deck between adventures, because that’s the most fun bit - but that’s actually a very compelling goal to strive for.  Once you get past the abstraction of the gameplay – monsters wandering off whilst you’re fighting them, only to reappear later on, loot just lying around all over the place, etc. – there’s a campaign style game here that has I think revolutionised board and card games.  At the very least it’s at the crest of the wave of the demand that players have for games with characters who they can level up and come back to game after game.  And it needs to be praised highly for this.  Like the Lord of the Rings LCG some of the scenarios are hit and miss, and they are mostly chase the villain down and kick his arse.  But I enjoyed kicking the arse of every single villain in this game!  And it definitely switches the game up in the later expansion packs.  So much so that I’m genuinely excited for what they come up with in Skull and Shackles, which originally I was going to pass on due to the pirate theme.  But which I’ll now be picking up next year (once all the adventure packs are out – I don’t like waiting around for my game to be complete).  It was great to be able to take one hero all the way through the game, and I had to completely but fairly contentedly go back on my perma-death rule once I reached those later levels, because there was no way I was going to go back through and play 23 hours’ worth of adventures just to get to the point where I made that bad roll again.  I actually don’t really like most of the 11 heroes in the game – gnome druids and dwarf paladins or whatever are a bit freaky to me after being raised on 1st and 2nd edition AD&D, but mainly because of the art.  So I might end up picking up a couple of the new Class decks to add some much needed variety to the choice of heroes, and to pick up some more classical favourites.  Anyway, this was the main solo non-play-testing game I’d been playing recently, running alongside all the other multiplayer games we’ve been playing through in the collection, and it’s just a really, really good one.

Players = 2
Games played in 2014 = 8
Rating in 2014 = 8


 Netrunner: Living Card Game

A mate at work brought his copy of this in and we played a game at lunchtime and have decided to give it a go on a semi-regular basis.  It’s the usual glossy FFG affair with great art and presentation.  He played the evil corporation, and I was the hacker.  I’m not familiar enough with the lore or terminology to tell you which ones though, it was very much a learning game.  And that unfamiliarity definitely led to a thematic disconnect for me.  Some of it made sense, but whereas the Lord of the Rings LCG has you travelling to lands and attacking enemies, or the Star Wars LCG has you attacking enemies and objectives, Netrunner sees your decker hacking through facedown software programs to somewhat arbitrarily (though I’m sure tactics in this will solidify with experience) attack your corporation opponent’s card deck, card discard pile and hand of cards.  I blindly played down what cards I could and he took it easy on me, guiding me through a few basic tactics.  Soon enough I played a program that could hack his archives (discard pile) as though it was his HQ (hand) and scored some big rewards which won me the game.  Victory felt more accidental than glorious, so I’m going to hold off on serious judgement until we’ve played a few more games, but it doesn’t feel as amazing as its position in the BGG ranks would indicate yet, especially since usually with games like this I can quickly get a clear sense of what’s what.  I look forward to eating my words on Netrunner in the near future, but for now I’m glad I played someone else’s copy rather than purchasing my own, because it was high on my wish list for sometime.

Players = 2
Games played in 2014 = 1
Rating in 2014 = 7

Here follows the rest of the games we want to get through this year, slowly but surely we’re getting there....

1. Arkham Horror
2. Constantinopolis
3. Dark Darker Darkest
4. Descent: Journeys in the Dark
5. Dungeon Lords
6. Dungeoneer: Vault of the Fiends
7. Magic Realm
8. Omen: A Reign of War
9. Race for the Galaxy
10. The Ares Project
11. Twilight Struggle
12. War of the Ring (first edition)
13. Warhammer Quest
14. When Darkness Comes: The Nameless Mist

Preference List for 2015:

1. Eclipse
2. Through the Ages A Story of Civilization
3. Mage Knight Board Game
4. Robinson Crusoe: Adventure on the Cursed Island
5. Invaders
6. A Touch of Evil: The Supernatural Game
7. Fortune and Glory: The Cliffhanger Game
8. Last Night on Earth: The Zombie Game
9. Claustrophobia
10. Defenders of the Realm
11. Dungeons & Dragons: Castle Ravenloft Board Game
12. Dungeons & Dragons: Wrath of Ashardalon Board Game
13. Tales of the Arabian Nights
14. Nations
15. Legendary Encounters: An Alien Deck Building Game
16. Gears of War: The Board Game
17. Pathfinder Adventure Card Game: Rise of the Runelords - Base Set
18. Star Wars: The Card Game
19. Call of Cthulhu: Collectible Card Game
20. Descent: Journeys in the Dark (Second Edition): Forgotten Souls
21. Return of the Heroes
22. Space Hulk: Death Angel - The Card Game
23. Revolver
24. Rune Age
25. Dungeons & Dragons: The Legend of Drizzt Board Game
26. The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game
27. Resident Evil Deck Building Game
28. Uncharted: The Board Game
29. Dungeon Command: Sting of Lolth
30. X-Wing Miniatures Game
31. Sedition Wars: Battle for Alabaster
32. Doom: The Board game
33. Lords of Waterdeep: Scoundrels of Skullport
34. Agricola
35. Eldritch Horror
36. Innovation
37. Shadowrun: Crossfire
38. Thunderstone
39. DC Comics Deck-Building Game
40. Dominion
41. Flash Point: Fire Rescue
42. Space Crusade
43. HeroQuest
44. Runebound (Second Edition)
45. Talisman
46. Lord of the Rings
47. Forbidden Island
48. Dungeons & Dragons: The Fantasy Adventure Board Game (Trade pile)
49. Zombies!!! (Trade pile)

Top 20 most wanted or forthcoming games:

1. Kingdom Death: Monster
2. Shadows of Brimstone
3. Mice & Mystics
4. Super Dungeon Explore: Forgotten King
5. Legendary Encounters: An Alien Deck Building Game
6. Shadowrun: Crossfire
7. Warfighter
8. Dead of Winter: A Crossroads Game
9. Fireteam Zero
10. Pathfinder: Skulls & Shackles
11. Merchants & Marauders
12. Archipelago + Solo expansion
13. Android: Netrunner
14. Tokaido
15. Lewis & Clark
16. XenoShyft Onslaught
17. Alien Uprising
18. Wtich of Salem
19. Myth
20. The Ancient World