07 April 2014

Arcane Legions Component Review

Unpainted Romans and a good view of the plugboard the soldiers go into.  
Disclaimer: None of these pictures are mine- I just got them off the internet.

I bought Arcane Legions for $5. $5 for a new miniatures game sounds about right, even if you can't mix and match your little men with other games, or if they're weirdly specific.

And they are unique- the point of Arcane Legion is that your little men can travel around their formation, becoming faster, better at blocking, or better at attacking depeinding on where in the formation you plug them into. You can see what their abilities are by a little slip of cardboard that you stick on top of plastic base with a thousand little holes. A red die means attack, so if you have a figure there, you get to roll a red die to fight. A white die means defense. Blue dice are ranged attacks. A yellow chevron on a black background means movement. It's pretty neat. As your figures die you have to make choices about what you can afford to lose, and you have to regroup when the situation changes. It also lets you visually see how many men you have, and what their basic capabilities are on the card, so you can pretty much just play with that. You don't need a bit of paper or a "codex" or anything.

There's a turning assistance bit, which slides into the notches on the sides of the bases. Since movement is measured in base lengths and turning is assisted by the little plastic bit, you don't need a tape measure or ruler. I haven't played yet so I don't know if this is a step backwards or forwards, but it is different. It also means that you need a couple of spare bases hanging around so you're able to measure things. I'm not sure why "base lengths" is the core unit of measurement but whatever.

The plastic bases themselves are thick and seem durable. There's a notch in one corner so you can see which way to put the cardboard over top of it. There are a bunch of shallow circular holes on each one. The box comes with two sizes- one that's square, and one that's rectangular.

The cardboard is universally less impressive than the plastic bases. It's flimsy and weak. This includes the box, which has an unpleasant, slick texture. It reminds me of boxes of Chinese knock-off toys. The cardboard "inserts" that go in between the bases and the minis are also flimsy, although not as slick. You can print out your own inserts if you want, but apparently since the company's out of business you'll have to download a third party program.

The miniatures themselves are serviceable. They're on sprues, for some reason, so you'll have to clip them off. The placement of the connecting plastic is really, really strange and is hard to get at with regular cutters you might have around the house. I had to use a utility knife, and it's really a pain. I've had to clip little bits of flashing off of long spears, tiny curved swords, and next to thin, skeletal arms. One of the miniatures has only a single narrow foot connecting its body to the base, and I'm afraid it's going to break off.

The plastic seems softer than Games Workshop plastics, too- it's easy to bend and wiggle the figures. With all of the skinny arms and long spears, you really have to be careful about where you put things and how you handle your men. The pegs, at least, are firm and solid, but it's a pain removing them from the pegboard because of their flimsiness. You can't just grab them by the head or shoulders and yank on them. If you have trimmed nails you're going to have to resort to using some sort of tool to get them off there.

The miniatures themselves are nice enough. They're all unpainted, except for the commanders, who seem to be machine-painted. Unpainted miniatures are fine and I'm not entirely sure why they chose to paint the commanders. It's more irritating that I'll have to strip and re-paint them than it is to have not had them painted. The machine painting is really not good and there's no way I'm leaving them like that. Seriously, look at that picture. All three commanders (one for each faction) are painted to the same level of quality. The coolest is probably the undead Egyptian guy, but I can't find a picture of him online anywhere. He's got a nice hat, a crooked sword with blood on it, and green skin. He's also the best painted of the bunch.

For the non-commanders there are some greek hoplite dudes, some egyptian undead guys, some roman legion type guys, and some chinese soldiers. They're detailed enough- not Games Workshop standard, but better than toy store army men. They're also actual-scale, so no heroic proportions. Faces and hands are tiny, and weapons are thin sticks. There's absolutely nothing wrong with that sort of thing. Since there aren't a million tiny details, it shouldn't take excessively long to paint. You could probably finish a batch in a couple of hours, if you're efficient and you know how you want them to look in advance.

Overall, I'm pleased with what I paid for them. Granted, I only paid $5. I'm not sure how I'd feel if I paid full price. Since the game isn't supported anymore it seems to go on sale often, which is nice. On Amazon it's going for $10, which is a reasonable price for what you get.

Too Long, Didn't Read: Some good, some bad, but at least it's affordable. Pick it up if you're interested in getting into a miniatures game when it's "dead" and the plastics are cheap, and if you have a friend who would play it with you. If you clip off the pluggy bits you could probably repurpose them.

10 March 2014

Arkham Horror, or How I Got Murdered By An Old One

Me and the wife were playing Rayman Legends for a while yesterday. She was playing by herself first while I was playing Sim City, but the game is more fun with another person. So I hopped in and we gathered Lums and saved Teensies. Pretty fun. For a while.

I got tired of the game, but we still wanted to play something together. Why not Arkham Horror, I suggested? It's gathering dust and besides, I'll make you a drink.

She said yes, and away we went.

We played for a solid four or so hours. That's two games in a row. It includes getting wasted, goofing off, and explaining all the rules and how to win. It was a great time.

Our first game we squared off against Ithaqua. She was the researcher (which looks a lot like her, believe it or not) and I decided that plucky salesman Bob Jenkins was my speed. We lucked out and both somehow managed to start with Tommy Guns and off we went, spraying demons with bullets. I explained that we have to close the gates before Ithaqua comes out to see what's crackin'. She asked how we do that.

"You gotta go through 'em and come back!"
"I have to go to The Great Hall of Ceelano?"
"Well I'll be going through that one, but that's the idea."
"Oh, cool."

We forgot that Ithaqua brings icy winds that reduce your stamina when you stand out in the street, but we had a hell of a time anyways. The Elder Sign I used to close the portal in The Woods turned out to be a serious boon; every other Mythos card tried to re-open it. The Witch House ended up being home to a couple of Warlocks almost the entire game. The researcher went unconscious due to some poor rolls against a Dhole. Some good portal closings got us rid of most of the more nightmarish monsters, and good sneak rolls got us the rest of the way.

The streets were drowning in monsters. We were down to our last handfuls of sanity and hoping beyond hope that the seals were enough to keep the doom at bay. We finished the game when Ithaqua was two doom markers away from coming to visit.

Six seals down. That'll do it. We saved the world!

But the night was still young-
so we played again!

This time it was the scientist (me) and the student (her) stopping Yig, with his serpent cultists. I picked out Yig since he had such a small doom track and he got extra doom when you killed a cultist. I figured battling an old one might be a good change of pace from the skittering scurry of avoiding him.

It turns out that we got screwed by luck- an early Mythos draw accelerated the doom track unless we sacrificed an Ally. It was the second turn and we didn't have any Allies. We fling ourselves through portals and do our best, but it wasn't enough. Yig comes.

It smashes half of our items and gives chase.We have to make more and more difficult speed checks or we lose stamina and sanity. It wasn't long before we are overcome by our eldritch enemy.

So two games- one win and one loss. Not bad. Here's to hoping next game comes soon and we can squeeze out a win. I'm thinking Azathoth next time, or maybe Nyarlathotep. Azathoth is cool because when he awakens you automatically lose (he destroys everything immediately) but at least you have time to stave him off. Nyarlathotep is neat because he has unique minions although I don't much like his depiction in Arkham Horror. Oh well.

Anyways, it was a great evening and I'd do it again any time.

One last thing: It's still totally bullshit that she travelled to the Plateau of Leng to take a nap and find two bucks. I'm running through monster-ravaged streets, machine-gunning eldritch horrors while she goes on a vacation. I go to the the City of the Great Race and am driven nearly mad by the unending horror. She goes to the R'lyeh and it's a little smelly and then she gets more items. Why can't Bob Jenkins get a break?

Seriously, where would you even get money here?

06 March 2014

Need a New Card Game

I'm in the market for a new game to play with my wife, and I've been thinking about card games. We both like to play cards, but we're both tired of our old standbys of Gin Rummy and Egyptian Ratscrew. We had tried Dominion, the deck-builder, but ran into some problems. It turns out that she only likes the game when she's winning, and also that we're only having fun when she's having fun. So Dominion got shelved.

But it's not a big deal, since that means we get to try out new games. My go-to game is, and always will be Magic the Gathering. It's a complex game and rich game, with great art, and if you make your own  cube you've turned the game into an LCG.

Of course, if you're going to turn a game into an LCG, then why not just try out one that started as one?

The big three that seem like they'd work best in my home are the Game of Thrones, Warhammer Invasion, and Lord of the Rings.

The Game of Thrones game seems pretty robust. The theme is great, since we both love the Song of Fire and Ice series, and the card art is beautiful. The decks in the starter edition each correspond with the great houses in Westeros, and two more houses are in expansions.

The goal of the Game of Thrones cardgame is to amass 15 power in any combination of military, political, or intrigue. There are plots, characters, titles, and a couple of interesting mechanics. Attack and defense seem especially interesting, and the way gold works seems to be satisfying.

There is (or was) a competitive scene, as well, so there's at least enough depth to sustain that community. That bodes well for its lasting appeal. It might not be the kind of appeal that me and my wife are looking for, but that's still appeal.

Warhammer Invasion is in no way related to the Game of Thrones cardgame, despite sharing the same publisher. The art doesn't seem to be the same level of quality, and the faces are messier and more difficult to read. But it does have its own charm.

Warhammer Invasion focuses on three zones, which either let you attack, draw you more cards, or net you more resources. The goal of the game is to destroy two out of three of your opponents' zones. The game seems simpler than Game of Thrones, which could be perfect for playing after a couple of drinks late at night. The game also seems to run longer than the Game of Thrones cardgame, which might be a problem- but who knows? It's possible that the hour of play seems short when you're in the thick of it, and that we both wish it were longer. As long as it's designed so that the trailing player can catch up with a bit of luck and good decision making, the game should be fine.

The last game I was considering is the Lord of the Rings LCG, which is unique in that it's cooperative. Each player has their own deck with three heroes in it, and the players work together to defeat the challenge deck. In a players' deck are allies, attachments, and events, which they use to try and complete the quest at hand. The players lose if they run up the threat counter (which acts as a sort of timer) or if they die. It's important to balance progression with safety, and offense with defense.

The LoTR game works as a solo game, too, so on the chance that it doesn't hold the wife's interest, at least one of us will get some use out of it.

As a side note, the Lord of the Rings game seems to have the best art, and we both adore the theme. But it's cooperative, which might not have the kind of staying power that will last us a long time. It's hard to tell in advance- she doesn't much like losing, and having us both lose sometimes doesn't seem like much of a way to spend a night. Plus, too, if she gets knocked out early (somehow), who wants to watch me play through the rest of the game solo-style?

It's a hard question, and I'm going to have to scour through a dozen more forums before I think I'll have my answer.There's no sense rushing into a decision that neither of us will appreciate in the long run, and we've got a bit of time to decide.

05 March 2014


I am now the proud owner of a Dogecoin wallet! I figure that with all of this hullabaloo about people losing digital millions through a totally unregulated currency, I might as well get in on the next big thing and lose a couple million of some fake currency, too!

So if you ever read something on here and are all like "damn that was a pretty good read, if only there was some way to give the author a fake currency that's worth fractions of a penny," send your Ð to D8cjRvTSeTdjnXd9vDyUstdxSfks4Qia7E and I'll know in my heart of hearts that I am truly loved.

To the moon!


such currency

04 March 2014

New TV??!?

I upgraded my TV from 24 inches to 50 inches this weekend, so I've been spending my time on the couch with my woman, playing video games.

She had half the day off yesterday (it's snowy and icy), so we celebrated by playing Rayman Legends.

If you ever said to yourself "What happened to the joyful exuberance and pure gameplay goodness of the games of old?" or "I'm tired of playing games that are made by committee- give me a game with spark and spunk!" then you need to go get Rayman Legends because holy tapdancing christ this game is good. It's visually gorgeous (that's a screenshot above) and the characters are charming and kinetic, the soundtrack is tone-perfect, the levels are clever and fun and full of little secrets... The game feels loved, in every corner, and in every way. It's brilliant.

Other than that, I'd been replaying some Dragon's Dogma, which is painful since I'm in NG+ and totally unprepared, and I'd wanted to try out The Last of Us' online multiplayer but it costs money and I don't know if it's dead. I'm just not ready to make the $10 plunge to possibly play a game "online" by myself. That's what we in the "cheap ass" business call "silly shit."

For real though: doubling the size of your TV is pretty cool. I recommend it.

27 February 2014

Let's Build Castles!

Been writing about Holdings today. The basic idea is that my domain game is played out mostly on a hex map, and each hex has a single holding. There are only three types (so far), mostly because there are three kinds of resources that the land gives you. We've been over Manpower, and Gold is a pretty obvious thing to welcome, too. Defense rounds out the third- there's a reason that one builds castles, and that's represented here, too.

First are Cities, which gives you lots of gold but not that much manpower- which makes sense, since cities tend to be wealthy but largely full of free guildsmen, merchant, business owners, and foreigners who have no loyalty to the crown. That's just the nature of the thing. Since they don't have an obligation to you, only the people who aren't doing much else will serve you. Cities are of average defensibility, since they tend to grow haphazardly but they can be pretty flammable.

Next up are Temples, which have decent manpower and decent gold. They're the easiest to invade, though, since they're not built for defense as much as to look impressive. Not much to say about Temples, although I'm thinking of toying with some religiosity benefits, such that if you have a lot of temples, maybe religiously-motivated warriors will stick around, or maybe the gods themselves will give you benefits. That could be fun, and appropriate for the light-fantasy setting. Maybe something as mild as just having people happier...

Then you have Castles, which have good manpower but little gold. People like to live near castles and they support a thriving ecosystem of serfs and manors, but castles are expensive to maintain. They're also the most difficult to assault. These castles needn't be official "castles," they can easily be border forts. The Castle type just represents an important free-standing structure in the hex.

Last come Villages, which are just lightly occupied hexes that are still controlled by somebody important. They aren't very good at anything, giving low manpower, gold, and defense. 

Each Holding has a level associated with it, which represents the basic productivity of the Holding, which is modified by the Holding's type. Castles get +1 Manpower, for example, so that a Level 1 castle gives 2 Manpower/season, and a level 5 Castle would give 6 Manpower. These are all totally made up numbers, by the way, I'm still nailing down exactly what the base should be and what the units of "men" should represent. I want to lean towards a simple conversion like 1 Manpower = 500 men, but I'll have to check my population density estimates again. That'll be forthcoming.

I'm thinking of including resources for each hex, as well. Something very, very simple, since it's already getting to be a bit much of the behind-the-scenes math and dice rolling. Probably something as simple as "metal deposits give +1 Gold / season" or "black soil gives +1 Manpower/season" or whatever. Maybe a list in the Appendix? Certainly nothing that'd belong on the map. On one hand, you could also completely ignore the terrain itself and reason that if you really built up a giant city in what seems to be like totally inhospitable terrain you must have something to keep your population going; this deals with the problem from the other direction, see?

Well, I'll keep hacking away at it. I'm in the stage where I'm collecting all my ideas and putting them into an actual .odt file and then trying to make them work together. There should really only be a couple of interlocking systems at play here, and I think I'm getting closer to making it functional. Wish me luck!

26 February 2014

Random Class Generation is Fun

I dunno about  you but these are some awesome-ass classes. Might run a quick game of Risus or Donjon and require that people play these classes and these classes only- when your character dies, you roll up a new one and figure out how to re-enter the scene with whatever method you prefer.

When all the characters are dead (or they win the objective, whichever comes first, I guess), then the game is over and everybody wins! Yay for winning!

Questions for inspiration:
  1. What is the Chill Driver driving?
  2. There are three trout-based classes; a fish cult?
  3. Iguanas are an element
  4. The cornsmith makes me think of these guys from Adventure Time
  5. Basil Hooligan sounds like almost too much fun, holy crap
  6. What are these guys all after, anyways?

18 February 2014

Glorious Tibet

Instead of doing anything productive, I've been playing EU4 as Tibet. Let me tell you something about Tibet- it's probably in the single worst position possible. To my west is a semi-unified Indian subcontinent, full of high basetax provinces of a culture I don't accept and largely containing two religions I am intolerant of.

Further west, of course, are the Timurids, who are going to turn into the Mughals and start conquering as much of India as they can get their hands on. They're giving Russia and the Ottomans a run for their money for #1 military power. And of course, Kathiawar and Orissa aren't super friendly, either, and they want my territory. Doesn't matter that I haven't done anything to them for generations, or that I've been focusing on Pegu/Ayutthaya to them.

To my east is Ming, who has so many people that it's not even worth mentioning. They might be a little behind in tech but holy shit there are so many of them. The only reason I have the two provinces of theirs is because they declared war on Ayutthaya, who is allied with Pegu, and so I declared war on them, too. I'm allied with Oirat Horde and Korea, and between the five of us we barely managed to eke out anything positive. It was gruesome. My manpower went from full to totally depleted and their military was four or five levels behind!

When I figure out how, I'll copy over the images stored on the Steam cloud and write up an after-action report. I'm probably doomed; this image is from a long while ago, when Tibet still had a chance. Events have changed. Tibet does not have much of a chance anymore.