From Fantasy Flight Games, Runewars is a grand strategy conquest games for 2-4 players. Set in it’s own fantasy universe drawn from Terrinoth, the same world as Descent, each player is a race seeking to control several powerful dragon runes. The first person to obtain 6 runes (or have the most by the end of the game) wins.
The game plays over 7 years, or rounds, with each year split up into 4 seasons. Every season has a specific event. Spring allows units that retreated or were exhausted in the previous year to ready. Summer has a special hero turn (more on that later) allowing these characters to scout through the lands, begin a quest, or duel other heroes. Autumn allows players to earn influence or tactical cards, while Winter, an especially important season, requires the feeding of your troops.
There are stacking limits of 8 units per hex area. At the end of a player’s turn, if there are more than 8 units they must be eliminated. During the winter season each area containing armies from the player must match their food resources (which runs from 0-8). Any hexes containing more units than the player’s food resource value must have troops eliminated until they match. Woe is the player that doesn’t plan out maneuvers and troop movements to account for the bite of winter.
In addition to each major event associated with a season, there is a random event. Events somewhat follow a theme depending on the season. Spring and Summer typically have events that are beneficial, while Fall will have more obstacles and difficulties. Winter will have negative events but can also have events which allow a player to gain dragon runes through bids for influence.
As mentioned, the game is all about gaining dragon runes. When players set up the board, different tiles of various terrain hexes are placed together. Then players decide their home realms and place one dragon rune, along with a blank rune counter just outside their homelands. If a player moves one of their units into a land containing a rune, they can look at it. If it’s a rune token they secretly tally that to their total. If an opposing player attacks and controls the area, they control the rune token. The tokens can be shifted around as an action, including adding a blank token. Essentially you end up with a large shell game of rune tokens and dummy counters being scattered among the map.
Aside from huge armies, players can control up to 3 heroes. During the summer season these heroes can undertake quests offering a chance to earn rune tokens as rewards. They can also skirt through enemy territory acting as a scout, effectively snooping through rune tokens (learning which ones are dummy counters and which ones are the real thing), but watch out! While they can slip through enemy territory, opposing heroes can duel them in the summer season too, gaining all their rewards if they vanquish them in one-on-one combat.
What stands out for Runewars is the order system. All players have identical sets of cards representing various commands they can give to their troops, and each order has a numerical rank. Every season a player chooses one order that all of his troops can undertake for the season. The orders for the turn resolve from the lowest numbered command up in numerical order. If values of command orders are tied, the player with the highest influence (or if needed the most starting influence based on their race) acts first. Essentially there is always a set order for how commands resolve during a season.
This makes commanding your forces a great challenge. You effectively only have 4 ‘moves’ per year. And for many units if they are given a command to essentially attack, they are exhausted for the year. To add some flexibility to the order system, each command has an additional superiority bonus, or an extra order that can be given to your units during a season. The superiority bonus only takes effect if the value of the order is currently the highest among the other commands you’ve given during the year (ignoring opponent’s orders).
Most attack and maneuver orders are lower in value and commands to gain resources, build defenses, and recruit troops are higher in value. As you have tight limits on the number of commands you can give each turn, you really want to plan out the year so that each order played as the seasons progress have a higher value than the previous season commands. Another interesting bit is that the spring of each year will always get a superiority bonus. As there are no other orders played, it will always have the highest value of command orders.
This part of the game really shines. You can quickly amass large armies, but to maneuver them year after year gets unwieldy. Every time an army moves into an area containing a neutral or enemy unit, it stops the movement of the troops for the season. You cannot rapidly advance them across the board and have to slowly trundle them forward in short jaunts. This makes planning out attacks and movement to cut off avenues of attack important. You are constantly trying to ensure the current order has the highest command value compared to other played orders, so that you can gain those important bonus actions. It really is an enjoyable strategic part of the game.
Resources and recruitment of units are managed by special player boards. Resources are split between wood, ore, and food. Each are a track of numbers recorded using dials. When players give a harvest command order, they will gain all the resources their dial is set at, including all the units below it. In addition players have influence and tactical cards which are special resources.
Influence is essentially a currency resource used for bidding on special titles and other seasonal events. Many of these titles are paths to gaining dragon runes. Tactical cards are special bonuses and events that players can use to gain an advantage during combat, allow units to cross seemingly impassable mountain territories, or force a player to reduce their resource dials. Both tactical cards and influence can swing events to their fortune, adding a little unpredictability to the game.
Combat is a little unusual from what you might expect from this type of game. Instead of rolling buckets of dice, it is card driven. When units move into an area containing enemy troops or neutral forces, a battle ensues. All the unit pieces are removed and placed on their player board (or on a neutral player board for non-player forces). All units have an initiative order and are represented by a base symbol. Units of higher initiative resolve their actions first. Players draw a number of cards equal to the number of particular units in the battle and resolve them simultaneously for that initiative round.
The battle round is determined by the base symbol of the unit and matching results on the card. Each card has four outcomes for all four unit base types. There may be no effect, a rout result causing it to drop out of the battle, inflict a wound, or possibly execute a special attack. The distribution of the outcomes vary depending on the base symbol of the unit. Units that have a higher initiative and attack in earlier rounds of combat will have less of a chance to damage units outright. Conversely, lumbering units of slow initiative will attack in later rounds, but have more card results that match their base symbol.
After each unit has a chance to attack (provided they weren’t eliminated or routed in earlier initiative rounds), players total the number of standing units. The player with the highest total of standing forces wins the battle, with ties going to the attacker. The loser has their forces retreat to a friendly or unoccupied area and all of their forces are routed. They will recover automatically at the beginning of the next year, but are essentially out of action for the remainder of the current year. Further if they are attacked again, they are helpless (a player can’t draw cards for routed units). Lastly, if forced to retreat and there are no adjacent areas that are empty or have friendly units, the entire force is eliminated. The combat resolves relatively quickly and composition of forces have some bearing on the battle.
A player doesn’t necessarily have to fight neutral units when they are in the same hex. They might be willing to be recruited into a player’s army through diplomacy, but is difficult to pull off. Players draw cards (the same used for battles) which have additional icons to represent 3 outcomes. The card number is based on the amount of influence spent, and the player chooses one card to resolve the diplomacy action. A precious few cards will mean the diplomacy attempt is successful, while others can cause neutral units to retreat. However most will result in a combat breaking out. Diplomacy is risky but many neutral units are very powerful and can be a huge boon if a player can sway them to fight under their banner.
In addition to building up armies, players can take control of cities and build up strongholds. Cities are important for gaining resources while strongholds are key for recruiting new forces. Given that movement is so limited, being able to muster new forces closer to your fronts is important.
The Good – Runewars is an epic wargame that requires strategic planning. How orders are executed make the game for me. You have a limited number of orders to issue over the game, and need to judiciously deal them out over the seasons. The hero mini-game is also an enjoyable addition which adds some story moments to what could be considered a cut and dried wargame of armies clashing.
The random events of the seasons as well as the layout of the board adds replay to the game. I also appreciate that each army has a particular flavor and unit abilities, giving each a certain feel when you command them. This also opens up the means to try different strategies but up to a point. Clearly some armies are better at hoarding tactic cards or wielding influence over others. It doesn’t mean you can’t dabble in these options, but you’ll likely not be a natural fit compared to some other races.
The components are solid. The rulebook is well written. The art is well done and a ton of well sculpted plastic bits. It really does capture that feeling of seeing huge forces sweep across the landscape.
The Bad – Movement is not dynamic and may not mimic the grand sweeping hordes of what people would expect from a game like this. Battle resolution is also something people might not enjoy with the cards and trying to computate outcomes can be murky compared to rolling dice. The hero turn interspaced in the game can at times be jarring and breaks up the flow of play some.
Lastly, the game can suffer from a kingmaker syndrome while poor opening seasons can cripple a player (essentially trying to claw out of a hole and get a shot at victory almost impossible). There aren’t many opportunities for actions and losing one season can result in a chain of disasters.
Also the game can be long. Not Twilight Imperium long however getting new players up on the rules will take time which dampers the amount you’d realistically get this to the table.
The Verdict – I really enjoy this game. Runewars has a sweeping, epic feel. The season events and tactic cards throw just the right amount of wrenches into player’s plans. There is a thrill to taking advantage of a temporary boon, or thwarting an enemy’s attack. It allows for those peaks and valleys in the play experience that you might not typically see in other games of this kind.
Each season you have to make difficult choices. You are constantly balancing the plodding movement of forces across territories, with the end of season culling due to lack of food in the winter. You want to gather up huge forces to ensure victories, but then must be ready to scatter them before winter. Yes you can replenish forces, but it takes time which you never seem to have enough of as there are precious few orders you can give during each year.
This isn’t a game you are going to get to the table much. It easily will take up most of your afternoon. However it does provide a foundation to have grand, sweeping fantasy battles where you muster huge armies and have them clash against your opponents. I love how it’s all about securing dragon runes. It can lead to some swings of fate but it doesn’t just reward the person that has the most optimized kingdom engine, but instead rewards risks and subterfuge. Runewars isn’t for everyone. But if you want a sprawling, epic wargame with a fantasy theme, you certainly won’t be disappointed with this game.
A reprint from an earlier edition, Formula D is a racing game from Asmodee for 2 to 10 players. Each person is a formula or street race driver competing on defined racetracks, trying to be first across the finish line. Out of the box the game offers two versions, a basic game and a set of advanced rules. Each player selects a driver, a car, a playing piece, and then they’re ready to race.
The player’s car is represented by an interesting player mat. Pegs are inserted into slots on a cardboard sheet over a plastic frame box which represent the current gear cars are in, and the boards also have spaces to keep track of damage incurred while racing. Each player takes a turn based on their pole position initially or based on their current track position as the race progresses. To move players roll special dice matching the gear that they are in, and then simply move the spaces indicated by their die roll. Yes, it’s a roll and move game but with a bit more nuance.
First are the gears. Each higher gear is represented by a higher numbered faced die. Additionally the die numbers are not normally distributed. An eight sided die for example will go from at least 4 spaces up to a maximum of 8 spaces, with most die results ranging from 6 to 8. There are also restrictions on the lanes and spaces cars can pass through. In general once a player moves from one lane to another, they must either maintain that lane, or move again in the same diagonal direction. In corners this is further reinforced with each space indicating legal spaces using directional arrows. If a player gets behind another player on a straight section, they can gain a bonus slipstream move.
Corners are especially tricky. Each corner on the track has a specified number of stops. That means the player must end their turn movement a number of times matching the value of the corner. If the go to fast and can’t stop enough times within the curve, their car takes damage (in the advanced game it will be a specific car part). For some corners if a car doesn’t stop enough times passing through it, they crash automatically. A player can always move less spaces by braking, but this also puts wear damage on their car.
Additionally if ending their move next to another car, they might take damage determined by rolling a special die. If they ever exceed the damage their car can take, they crash and are out of the race. But this might be worth the risk because if you end up directly behind another player going fast enough and in at least 4th gear, you can get a bonus move for a few spaces using a slip stream maneuver (which can be chained to repeat again on a different car). The players continue taking turns until they run a certain number of laps, with the winner being the first crossing the finish line.
The basic rules offer a fun racing game. There are some difficult choices where a player has to decide if it’s worth downshifting a few gears to navigate through a tight corner, or be risky and incur a little tire damage by braking. You might consider keeping in a middle gear on a straightaway, hoping to end up directly behind a player gaining extra movement so you can easily slip down to a lower gear for a tight corner, rather than just pushing a high gear on those straightaways. Positioning yourself on the board to get the optimal number of stops in the highest gear possible is a key point to the game.
The advanced game opens up more depth. Instead of a single type of car damage, you incur damage to specific components. This leads to the importance having a pit stop mid-race to repair tire damage. These car components are impacted by different actions. Also each racer can tweak the starting component values of their cars or provide a special ability, offering another layer of variation among the cars. Lastly there are rules for weather and track effects, team races, and rules for a longer league circuit.
The game comes with a formula race track and a street race map on the opposite side. The street race has different road conditions, hazards, and additional challenges. This can be a fun change from the vanilla flavor of a proper formula track.
The Good – The concept of rolling higher-faced dice as you go up in gears is clever. It’s balanced with having to stop a set number of times passing through corners, giving the managing of braking and shifting gears while trying to cover as much ground as possible a challenge to work out during your turns. All the while you have to monitor the wear and tear to your car.
The components are excellent, with bright, colorful art for the tracks, to solid cardstock and plastic bits for cars. Some of the driver art is a tad cartoon-like but it works. Yes, you won’t find a hyper-realistic depiction of formula racing. You will find a spectacle of pieces and game bits to sprawl out over the table.
The Bad – Experienced players will find optimal paths on tracks, learning the ‘best’ routes to navigate the course (which somewhat mimics the real thing). If you play the hell out of the game, eventually you will be learning the sweet lane spots for taking corners, so the game can become a tad like a mechanical exercise if you don’t embrace the theme. The play with multiple individual players can drag some with downtime. There can be a little interaction with the bumping of cars, but you are pretty much sitting around waiting for your turn. Working in teams of cars seems to work best rather than every driver for themselves.
The Verdict – Formula D is a fun racing game. I think what works especially well is that it can offer a light racing game to new players, then turn around and provide something with more bookkeeping and interesting racing conditions with the advanced rules. There are many race track expansions available which certainly adds to the variety of tracks to race with, stretching out the value of the game. Over the recent years there have been some other games released that likely capture a more realistic feel of car racing, but Formula D offers an enjoyable game with some strategy and a dash of luck. Combined with the colorful components and board, it’s worth picking up if looking for a more approachable racing game.
From White Wizard games, Hero Realms is a 2-4 player deck builder game. Using similar play mechanisms in its sci-fi predecessor, Star Realms, players each start out with similar base decks and slowly accrue more cards, trying to eliminate other players. There are a variety suggested game variants such as players forming teams or everyone can just jump into a free for all, where the last player standing wins.
The game is played by taking turns, with each player being able to take a series of actions in any order (and as many times as they wish). From a hand of 5 cards, a card can be played, abilities on current cards in their play area can be used, cards can be purchased from a common pool, and finally, a player can attack another player.
Purchased cards are placed directly in the player’s discard pile. However cards that are played can be used for various actions. Some will add gold to a player’s resources which can be used to purchase more cards, while others are used for attacking players. At the end of their turn, except for played champions, used cards or ones still in the player’s hand are put in the discard pile, and a new hand of 5 cards is drawn.
Attacks commonly use a pool, or total, of an attack value that will damage an opponent’s health. When their health reaches zero they are eliminated. Some cards can heal damage, and other cards have a defensive value that can reduce the attack pool number. As an additional tweak to combat, players can directly attack champions (cards with special abilities) in their opponent’s play area.
To bolster the defense of those champions or a player, some special champions are guardians. These guardian champions must be eliminated before other champions or a player can be attacked. To eliminate a champion or guardian, the attack pool must equal or exceed the defense value of the card. Once a card is eliminated it goes to the owner’s discard pile (allowing it to be drawn and played again on future turns). Alternately some card abilities can ‘expend’ itself, tapping it and changing its orientation. The card is in play but can’t be used for its abilities or provide defense.
That is the heart of the game. A rather simple numbers game where players try to beat the defensive cards of their opponent, while being able to maintain enough defensive abilities to bolster their health total. The wrinkle of course is the four faction types and interactions with various cards of the different factions leaning towards particular action types (attack, defense, purchasing cards, etc.).
As mentioned the game out of the box can handle 2-4 players. An interesting move regarding expansions are various starter decks which allow for more players. Unlike the starter decks in the base game, these have a few unique cards. This offers some light replay value by dabbling into different expansion packs as you can have some variation with starting hands (provided you buy enough expansion packs).
The Good – Out of the box you can have a fun deck builder that can handle 4 players. The card faction options and abilities or actions that allow for expending/stunning other cards open up for some different strategies. The set includes some clever cards to track health/score of the players, and the art for the cards is well done with bright, lovely colors, and layouts.
The Bad – Purchasing cards can lead to buyer’s remorse, where a better option becomes available replenishing the card pool after a purchase. The abilities are interesting but at times healing can get out of hand, almost outpacing damage. Adding to your deck can very much become a race, where the player that manages to scoop up cards to make a working combo first can really shift the balance in their favor.
The Verdict – Hero Realms is an enjoyable game. Being able to play 4 people out of the box is great. However the 4 card factions and limits on purchasing cards hampers strategies that players can explore. I also felt some games could just be a slog, with opponents countering damage easily through healing or being able to reliably get out champion cards.
I don’t know how the character expansions will work with the game. I do wonder if they will have balanced starting hands. Also as each expansion deck adds a unique starter deck, a person almost has to go all in buying at least four to offer parity. You don’t have to do this, but I could see some players grumbling they are stuck with the ‘regular’ cards while someone else gets new cool toys to start out with.
Nonetheless, it’s a reasonable product with room enough to discover fun combos, and there are expansions out there to diversify your card pool if wanting more. It’s a light deck builder that is enjoyable. I am somewhat not too keen to gush over it though. I feel Cthulhu Realms seems to capture a more fun experience out of the box with tighter game play. However if looking for a fantasy themed game akin to Star Realms that provides a 4 player deck builder with a single purchase, Hero Realms isn’t a bad buy.
Occasionally I am out and about doing gaming stuff in public. For a lot of my board games that use cards, it’s helpful having decks stack up neatly in discard and draw piles. This is especially so when handling sleeved cards as sometimes these piles can be a little slippery, where an accidental knock can spill out your cards all over the place. And while deck boxes are great for transport, they can’t serve any additional purpose on the table.
Enter the Card Caddy. It’s an inventive design where a protective deck box can be opened up into two sections. Even better, the separate sections can be linked together with each half capable of holding a full stack of cards.
I picked up a few different caddys. A couple of standard card size packs, and double-decker ones which are designed to hold larger decks of sleeved cards. The pic here shows a double-decker caddy and a single deck as a comparison (the blue colored caddy). Both can accept sleeved cards but I’ve found the single size box won’t hold many sleeved cards. I found the double-decker box can comfortably hold about 50 or so double sleeved cards (figure about 80 regular sleeved cards).
They lock together by sliding each half in grooved slots. It’s pretty easy to take apart, but I found the double-decker a bit more tricky to assemble. Nothing that’s a deal breaker but it certainly takes a lighter touch compared to the single deck box. The deck boxes are sturdy and feel like they could take some light punishment and still protect the cards.
I’m glad I picked them up. If I had my druthers I would have skipped getting a single deck box and just gone with the double-decker. Most of my games lean towards larger decks and typically use sleeved cards. Regardless though, they are a nice product and a great way to transport and have a storage solution on the table to help keep everything stacked nicely.
I’ve been a long time fan of playing Bolt Action in 20mm. However I figured if I ever jumped into a local gaming scene I might be in a bit of a pickle using minis at that scale. I had a hankering to field a Russian force and decided to do it in the ‘proper scale’ of Bolt Action using 28mm figures.
There are lots of choices out there for models and I went with some cheaper plastic sets. Looking to round out options I wanted to try and get some different unit choices. One of which was a small AT gun team. I’ve freely admitted my love of Plastic Soldier Co. before and used their models extensively for my British and German 20mm platoons. For Russians, PSC makes kits both in 15mm and 28mm, so I was in luck.
The 45mm AT-gun team kits have parts to make 2 guns and a total of 8 crew members. It’s a very flexible kit for light AT guns, as there are barrels to make a 43mm M-1937 and a 45mm M-42 AT gun. Yet, the box name is somewhat a misnomer as there are barrels to also make a 76mm M-1943 (OB-25) regimental gun which could be used as a light howitzer.
I went ahead and made a M-42 45mm AT gun (pictured left below) and a light howitzer (pictured right below). While the M-42 was made throughout the war, it was certainly phased out as German tank armor was improving. If going the min/max route most folks would likely spend the points for a ZiS-3. But if focusing on an early war platoon, this kit is a great resource.
The details on troops are a little muddied but not bad for digital sculpts. Another small quibble is there is no instruction sheet/diagram for assembly of the guns (but not too difficult to work out). Assembly was pretty easy but the barrels and trail supports had to be sanded down some to fit within the gun frame.
Despite my small niggles, overall it’s a great kit for the value and wonderful for wargaming. A good buy if looking for early-mid war AT options for Russians in 28mm.
So a long, long, long while back I picked up a handful of 1/48 Germans and Russian infantry from Tamiya. I was thinking about having a couple of squads to do some quick and dirty skirmish gaming with some odd rule systems. This was long before Bolt Action was on my radar and they sort of languished in a pile of unopened model kits. As I started working on a full Russian platoon in 28mm scale and decided to add these models into the mix of my force.
I’ve got a metric ton of Wargames Factory Russians which are pretty good figures. So having some other miniatures from a different manufacturer would be cool to add a little variety. There are 13 figures in the kit including a couple of tank crew members. For the most part they are in light, cold weather garb with a few light cloaks and a couple in winter coats.
Most are armed with PPsh-41 smgs and a few have Mosin Nagants. One carries a DP lmg and there is also a soldier pulling a Maxim mmg. As functionality for independent models to push around on bases, there are a few in sitting positions, so it’d require some base modelling to make them work. However on the flip side it’s great to have a few sitting models as I can use them to indicate a tank is carrying tank rider troops.
I ended up having 8 models including a soldier with a lmg to form just that, a tank rider squad. They have a lot of nice detail. Scale wise they match up pretty well with Wargames Factory figures (right) however against some 28mm Plastic Soldier figures (left), they are a little smaller in bulk.
If you wanted to pick up a few figures that were smg-heavy, this is a nice kit to get. Also, if you wanted a few figures to represent tank riders, it’s certainly a great kit to buy. They have good detail and are pretty easy to put together. Mind however that you’ll also have to get a few bases though. If looking for a small squad in winter gear to supplement your force with a scout squad or tank riders, check these figures out.
I’ll peg this as more as a cumulation of thoughts rather than a proper review. This full campaign expansion for the Arkham Horror card game has since been released for a while now, and after a few playthroughs I decided to give The Dunwich Legacy a look over. This uses the classic Lovecraft story, The Dunwich Horror, as a backdrop for the expansion. I’m not going to go through much of the cards as you can dig through tons of other podcasts and such to get a rundown of individual reviews, or you can see them yourself. I will go over the highlights of the scenarios and talk a bit how the campaign was overall. I’m also going to try and give this a light spoiler treatment. I don’t want to dig too deep into the workings of the campaign to allow for people to have some fun if they haven’t played it yet. But fair warning that some of the story elements will be discussed.
The campaign itself consists of a big box expansion with 6 mythos packs (small deck expansions). In the Dunwich Legacy you’ll get 5 new investigators along with 2 scenarios that kick off the campaign. As deck building goes with the investigators, each of them have a little twist compared to the ones included in the core set. All investigators utilize one class and the neutral cards as primary sources for cards from level 0 to 5 experience. However they can have up to five level 0 cards from any other class. What’s refreshing about these investigators is that they seem to be designed with the intent to compliment core set investigators, and the limited card pool that comes along with it.
My biggest compliant with the core set that it was a deck construction game without much opportunity to actually build decks. Plus the more investigators you add, the more difficult (to downright impossible) it was to make decks. The Dunwich Legacy investigators address that. I dare say that if you invest in this entire expansion cycle, you could get away with playing 3 investigators using just a single core set. Deck building will be tight and you’ll hit some rough patches with some scenarios but it can be done. Unfortunately with a 4th player you are still going to have to go the route of getting another core set. However I like that they broke away from investigator deck construction format that stuck with the main class plus one other, allowing you to stretch out a single core set a little more.
The investigators themselves are fairly solid. I think of the lot maybe Jim Culver is the weakest of the bunch with the others being pretty formidable (and some might say broken in the case of Rex Murphy). This certainly adds a lot more re-play to even the base game. The investigators still adhere to their class archetypes for how they play. But each has a different feel that diverges from the core set investigators which is great. Now a bit more onto the campaign itself.
The campaign expansion opens near Miskatonic University in Arkham. The players are recruited to find individuals that assisted Dr. Henry Armitage in a strange incident that happened months ago in the remote village of Dunwich. Out of the box the campaign offers a branching story. You have two scenarios and can choose either to tackle first, with each having a minor wrinkle to how they play depending if you are playing it first or second. It’s a pleasant change from the linear paths and I hope it’s something that is explored more in future releases.
Extracurricular Activities – The players are trying to explore the sprawling Miskatonic University campus, looking to find one of Dr. Armitage’s colleagues. A tweak to this is that a few key locations are locked away and cannot be accessed. If players can eventually take control of an NPC (Non-player Character) ally, they can get to these locations. Once things are underway however, a clock to the scenario starts ticking down. The players have a choice how they tackle this new challenge. An interesting aspect is that players can ‘win’ this scenario but still ‘lose’ adding additional difficulty to the campaign.
The House Always Wins – A change of pace from the typical dreary locales, this scenario takes place in a speakeasy that also doubles as a gambling den. The players must investigate the area under the watchful eyes of various mobster types. If they discover clues while a mobster is at the same location, they can incur their wrath.
A wonderful twist to this scenario is that the initial investigation has the players discover clues through different means by either spending resources or discarding ally cards. This comes into play shortly as the scenario has a sudden-explosion-everything-in-chaos moment that ratchets up the tension. Players will be thrown into a situation where every action counts. So ditching resources to help move the act cards quickly can also mean less choices to handle more difficult obstacles that come up later. It’s a great balance of risk versus reward.
The Miskatonic Museum – This scenario has the players trying to search through a museum after hours in hopes of finding a translation of the Necronomicon. Rather than have an encounter deck filled with horrible monsters, there is a single phantom-like creature slowly stalking them. It’s a different take on the typical monsters in the game which I appreciate. However the results are a mixed bag. The monster is more of a harasser that builds up in power but never seems to be that much of a threat. It instead becomes more a monster that’s managed through evasion and damage mitigation.
Still the scenario has a nice feel of trying to search through sections of the museum. Also there are different ways to approach key challenges, including a choice right at the onset of the scenario. Lastly, if the players are successful they are offered a dangerous asset of the necronomicon itself. The card ability is tempting, especially for Daisy Walker, but there are unforeseen consequences for the players if they take it. A fun choice to make campaign playthroughs a little different each time.
The Essex County Express – This scenario takes entirely in a train traveling to the rural village of Dunwich and the investigators soon learn that things have gone horribly wrong. They are in a frantic race to move from car to car, ever trying to get to the engine of the train. With different train cars and engines, along with a variety of orientations of the locations, this scenario has a fair amount of replay. It can also lead to some wildly challenging games where some are horribly difficult, and others fairly easy.
Overall though I love the concept. Players soon learn to carefully glean clues from the agenda and act decks, as they can find out the hard way how the scenario agendas progress. I can totally see future scenarios where a similar progression and how locations are altered can be used in different environments (like a sinking ship, with investigators hurriedly traveling between ship compartments). The outcome sort of falls flat though. It’s more of a hard win/fail of sorts for them.
Blood on the Altar – The players have finally entered Dunwich where things seem awry. This is a wonderful scenario. Players are tasked with finding key locations and have a choice of either fighting or solving their way to a win. The outcomes of the scenario can be either crippling or a mild inconvenience. This scenario can result in unique allies being removed from the game, making the outcome have far reaching consequences for the campaign as a whole.
The scenario also introduces an interesting creature encounter card. Whippoorwills are aloof creatures that are more of a hindrance than a threat. Players have to spend a fair amount of actions to remove them. They add a clever mechanism to adding difficulty to the scenario over a static condition that a player accumulates.
Undimensioned and Unseen – The Dunwich village is now under threat as several creatures rampage through it. What breaks up this monster battle is that players must first discover a key location and obtain items that will allow them to attack the creatures. One great aspect of this scenario is particular locations can also interact with the creatures. This gives the scenario a fun cat-and-mouse type of play, allowing the investigators to manipulate the creatures through judicious use of location abilities.
This scenario also has a similar vibe to Midnight Masks from the core set. Players are set with a practically impossible task. They have to try and do as well as they can and might have to just cut their losses and resign. It doesn’t mean the end of the campaign, but by not completing their objective in its entirety can make other scenarios far more challenging. It can be a difficult choice whether to soldier on and be eliminated, trying to fight to the last, or run for their lives. Used judiciously in a campaign I can appreciate this, and it works well here. However the scenario as a whole is pretty much a monster hunting battle.
Where Doom Awaits – First let me give some appreciation to the designers of the game regarding a decision how this scenario resolves. Throughout much of the campaign (rightly) if players fail they can still carry on. Metagaming, players realize there is another scenario pack to the campaign, and likely rest on that knowledge knowing if things get too difficult, they can lick their wounds and try again for the final scenario for the campaign. The designers went with a decision that might surprise some people. I dig it and appreciate the direction the campaign takes because of it.
Now onto the part where I piddle on this scenario. Throughout the campaign, players can build decks to get around having a poor lore skill to investigate for clues. This scenario dumps that on its head. There are specific location abilities that investigators must utilize to advance the act deck. If the players cannot do so, there may be negative outcomes with severe campaign consequences. What adds punishment to this game element is that the location abilities can only be attempted by an investigator once during their turn. If you have a low lore skill character, you will probably lose this scenario. I just feel it’s a poor design choice.
Now the scenario itself can be all over the place. The variety of locations along with an encounter deck that has a kitchen sink makeup, means you can have wildly different plays. Some games will be pretty easy. Some will be incredibly difficult. I like that you need investigators that can fight as well as others that can scoop up clues.
However it’s marred by the abilities on key location cards which require a once per turn attempt to investigate. If ever there were scenario errata needed, it would be for this one. Something needs to tweak how the game progresses (ex. if an investigator fails, they can attempt the location action again). However how the mechanics of the card function, even standards like flashlight are useless so something else more drastic might be needed. This effect sort of breaks the scenario and given the larger repercussions to the campaign as a whole, it can leave you with a sour taste in your mouth. Which is a shame as what follows this scenario is so great.
Lost in Time and Space – How this scenario plays out is interesting. There is a single location in play and players must go through the encounter deck to discover more. Further, the paths from the locations twist and turn about, where you find in order to proceed to key act locations you have to work through several already on the table. This process gets more difficult as locations can disappear, needing be be drawn again from the encounter deck. Further, players and creatures can find themselves teleporting from location to location. It can be a frustrating experience, but at the same time it captures that chaotic, warping sense of a constantly shifting landscape with ever degrading sanity hampering the investigators.
As a small bit on the agenda developments, as each agenda rolls out players make tests based on past events, even those from the first couple of missions. I really enjoyed that part. It wasn’t a perfect fit, but still a pleasant attempt at demonstrating the lasting consequences of past actions. Additionally I enjoyed the possible resolutions for the scenario and also for the campaign conclusion. You can potentially be lost forever and still manage a heroic win.
The final showdown can be avoided or be a slugfest with the elder god, Yog-Sothoth. Much of the encounter cards and locations chip away at the player’s sanity and this greater abomination does the same. You might consider the scenario a little too lopsided towards mental damage, but I feel it fits the theme of the final locations well.
Final Thoughts – A key theme for many encounter cards is running through a player’s deck by discarding undrawn cards. One particular encounter card will inflict immense physical damage if a player runs out their deck. This essentially adds a timer to the game as they’re unlikely to survive this effect. Fortunately the players are exposed to this early on and can try to mitigate it as they gain experience. However it does introduce a different time challenge for the player which I like.
I will admit some elements are hamfisted with how they are added to the campaign. I love outcomes with some scenarios that add a specific weakness to your deck. But there are also ones where you add a random weakness or chaos token for no real reason except to ramp up the difficulty. Similar effects based on outcomes and choices from the players just feels much more enjoyable.
Overall Dunwich Legacy has more hits than misses. Being the first big expansion campaign, I don’t think it strayed much from the core set experience which is good. Yet the designers still managed to get some mechanisms and scenario elements that add to the typical game you’d get from the core set. I bite my tongue a bit though with giving it a glowing recommendation because a critical end scenario (Where Doom Awaits) can certainly thrust the player into an unwinnable situation. The story environments also knit well, with only a few that feel out of place (Essex County Express). Overall it just seems to capture a more intimate experience with most of the scenarios revolving around Dunwich, which can potentially lead to this otherworldly environment. Maybe people wanted a globe trotting adventure, but I enjoyed the more rural locations it went for.
As of this review there is another complete expansion out, with a third being released in the next few months. Players will certainly be spoiled for choices and possibly these other expansions might eclipse the Dunwich Legacy. But if looking for an expansion with classic Lovecraft theme that builds on the core set, interesting investigators, useful player cards, and offers a full campaign experience, the Dunwich Legacy is a fun one.
Looking for a classic hex and counter squad level game, I had heard great things about GMT’s Combat Commander series and eventually was able to snatch up the first release after a recent reprint. Combat Commander: Europe (CCE) is a two player WW2 infantry game. This offers engagements both from the eastern and western European front, with units from Germany, USA, and Russia included in the box. It’s a squad level game. You won’t find rules for tanks of vehicles. There are some rules for offboard artillery but most action depicted will be small arms supplemented with MMGs, mortars, field guns and the like.
The game offers 12 scenarios along with rules to generate random engagements. As mentioned, this is presented as a classic hex and counter game. Lots of double sided cardboard counters and hex maps representing various rural terrain (with an occasional group of farmhouses thrown in) will be what you get in the box.
It’s an IGOUGO game with alternating turns. Players will try to hold specific points on the map for victory points. The value of the locations for some will be revealed at the beginning of the game, while others will have their value secret, known only to your opponent. In addition players earn victory points for eliminating units. If a player finds they’ve lost their entire force, they lose the game regardless of the captured objectives.
Another means of earning points is to exit units off the opponent’s edge of the map. Eventually those units recycle on as fresh reserves, but they can award a fair amount of victory points getting them off the board. However you can’t guarantee exactly when you will get reinforcements, so it can be a gamble (but can really pay off).
A critical bit about the game is the tracking of game turns. Different conditions can cause time to advance in the game. Each situation where time advances, it moves up a record track. When it reaches the scenario threshold, a player will roll randomly and compare the result to the current time track’s value. If the roll is above the time track value, the game continues until the time marker moves again (and another roll is made). Otherwise the game ends immediately. This random game end condition means players have to do as much as they can within the limited time allotted.
A key element that stands out for CCE from other wargames of this type is that actions and their resolutions are card driven. A player will have a set hand size (depending on whether they are attacking or defending) and will be only able to play a few cards from their hand each turn. The cards played represent command orders given to units. You can only move or fire a unit if you play a matching card order. Further, each unit can only be activated once per turn. A notable exception are leaders as they can activate other units within their command range (usually 1 or 2 hexes). You begin to see that leaders are the backbone of your platoon allowing for effective execution of orders.
After playing a specified number of cards, players may discard additional cards and then draw up to their maximum hand size, ending their turn. Individual cards have 4 simultaneous functions associated with them. They represent orders given during your turn and also as actions which can be played during either players’ turn. Cards also represent random events, and can serve as die results too. Every card has the results from two six-sided dice, and each deck represents roughly twice the entire possible outcomes of rolling 2 dice (ex. there is a 1 in 36 chance of rolling two ones, so in the deck at most you’ll have two double 1 dice results). This allows a player to figure out dice probabilities up to a point.
As mentioned you are limited in choices during your turn based on the orders in your hand. Actions are a little more flexible. A fair number of actions represent bonuses to movement, attacks, or defense, but some also allow firing opportunities. So yes, it’s IGOUGO but there is a chance for your opponent to interrupt your move order with an opportunity fire action, essentially simulating an ambush.
Mixed in with the 2D6 results are special events. These temporarily halt the resolution of an action and introduce some random event. You might have a weapon jam, or a unit get pinned down by a sniper, or a random hex might be engulfed in a fiery blaze. Fortunately they don’t chain event after event, however a decent number of cards in your deck will initiate them. So you can expect the unexpected playing and your plans might get a bit of fortune, but likely get a huge monkey wrench thrown into the works, as you execute orders.
Movement is done using a point system with each unit having a listed number of movement points. Equipment like MMGs or mortars are attached to units and typically hinder the total movement of a squad, while leaders will add to a unit’s movement. Various terrain will hinder movement costing a certain number of points per hex.
Firing is fairly simple to resolve. Line of sight is determined by terrain features passed through when lining up center hex points (which are well represented on the maps). Some terrain will reduce the total firepower of an attack while others block line of sight completely. A player can order individual units to fire, or use officers to select one unit as the base firepower of an attack, and then add one point of firepower per additional unit firing in the group. Eligible units for this group fire are those within the command range of leaders. Additionally leaders can add to the firepower of units within their hex, including adding to attack range.
To counter the effects of fire, the target has a base morale (usually ranging from 7-9) that can be increased if in cover. Each player draws a card to represent their 2D6 dice roll adding to their firepower or morale totals, respectively. If the target beats the attacker’s firepower result they are in good order. If the attacker’s firepower is greater than the defender’s morale total, the target breaks. On a tie the target is suppressed gaining a penalty to movement, firepower, range, and morale (or they break if the target unit was moving). If a broken unit gets another break result, they are eliminated. Simple.
Assaults are even easier to resolve. Units draw a card (i.e. ‘roll’ 2D6) and add their firepower. Whoever has the highest total wins with the other side is eliminated. On ties both sides are eliminated. Units have a chance to recover from being broken using a Rally order. However the enemy can also force breaking units to retreat with a Rout order themselves.
This challenge of deciding what cards to play and which ones to hold onto for future rounds makes the game. Do you discard most of your cards in hopes to get an order you need? Or do you hold onto actions to take during your opponent’s turn? Some orders like a Rout card can swing the tide on later turns, but do you keep it in your hand or discard it to increase the odds of getting a more flexible order that can be of more immediate use? These are the hard choices and managing your hand to commit effective orders is a central part of the game.
Units are limited to 7 ‘figures’ per hex. The unit counters are designated as single figure leaders, 2 man teams (which is really a 3-5 man fire team), or 4 figures representing a 10 man squad. This low number means you need to judiciously deploy and execute orders, and also emphasises the importance of your leaders. You can’t have huge stacks of units in a single hex and need to spread them out. However in order to effectively fire and maneuver them, you need oversight and leadership from nearby officers.
It can take some mental gymnastics to grok the idea of using cards for everything, including the ‘rolling of dice’ but once you grasp the concept you begin to appreciate the mechanic. Every draw of the card opens up a chance for random events, adding more havoc and obstacles to tackle. Actions representing flexible orders that can be played during your opponent’s turn are also a nice touch. This layers on the uncertainty of your turn. You can commit a large firegroup to suppress and potentially break a threatening unit, but your opponent might be able to counter with an action representing extra cover they have in their position. You might think you’ll be able to rapidly move up several units, only to find your opponent is able to play multiple opportunity fire orders which will break your units as they advance.
Another aspect of using a deck of cards is they serve as a marker for advancing time. When a player exhausts their deck, they reshuffle their discard pile and make a new draw deck. However this advances the time track, bringing the game closer to an end. There are also special event cards that initiate this reshuffle and time advancement. This small game element adds so much to the game.
Players will have a general idea of the turns expected in a game based on the amount of cards needed to go through their deck (especially if the Time! event card was already played for an order or action). But as the game progresses, this becomes more difficult to judge. Additionally while a player may want to frantically dig through cards to get the order they need, they are also rapidly increasing the chances of exhausting their deck, advancing the time track, and bringing the game closer to an end. They might want to work with cards in their hand, rather than trying to discard everything to draw a needed order (eventually forcing the game time to advance). It’s a great part of the game and ratchets up the pressure as turns progress.
CCE isn’t going to be everyone’s cup of tea. You won’t have a cut and dried tactical experience playing the game. Instead you’ll start out with a few turns of pretty well executed orders and then hit a snag. Maybe you have the initiative slip away, as you can’t find the needed order, so you spend turns discarding and drawing while your opponent maneuvers on the battlefield. You might get some random event that bogs down a critical assault, or a key MMG position is nullified due to a jam malfunction. Instead you find yourself scrambling to make the best decisions with limited resources. This results in a highly narrative experience, where you’ll see heroic moments and things go FUBAR. It’s wonderful.
The Good – The rulebook is well written with nice components. The random mission generator is a great addition allowing you to create some interesting battles and the scenarios offer a fair snapshot of different periods of WW2. There are a good number of expansions that provide new armies and scenarios in other theaters. The cards are of thick stock. The unit counters have simple profiles listing key information, and the indication of a broken unit is simply a flip of the counter to the opposite side. The oversized map hexes allow for some spreading of counters around during play rather than having tightly packed stacks of units. The art design for much of the cards are historical photographs and the color maps are simple depictions of terrain features. It won’t win any awards but they do dress up the game some.
The Bad – It’s a game with small counters. Some key elements (tracking turns, victory points, etc.) can be a little fiddly and woe is the person that accidentally knocks the table near the end of the game. This is small unit infantry action and if you wanted an opportunity to throw in some armor, you are out of luck with these rules. The random event mechanic can lead to the unfolding of odd moments and how they break up the resolution of orders can make play feel disjointed at times. The aspect of random events and issuing orders based on your hand might not click for everyone. If you are looking for tactical experience with predictable set pieces and resolutions based on narrow, strict probabilities, CCE is likely not for you.
The Verdict – Combat Commander: Europe is a solid wargame. If you want a WW2 tactical skirmish game, this is a fantastic choice. You have to make thoughtful choices and the card driven order system adds a lot of friction to play. It’s the constant pressure of having to adapt to blossoming difficult situations that makes CCE shine. I dare say if you wanted to experience a miniature skirmish game without all the painting, figures, and terrain, this would be a good substitute. I will say with certainty though if looking for a hex and counter game for small unit action, Combat Commander: Europe and other editions (notably CC: Pacific) are great buys and highly recommended.
NOTE: The rules are actually well written and play is straightforward. However it might be a little challenging getting through your first game. Harsh Rules has a tutorial video (along with a part 2) that walks through all the basic rules of the game and well worth checking out.
So a while back I posted a custom box insert I did for the Arkham Horror card game. I sort of have fallen in love a bit more since I first reviewed it, mostly due to the complete release of the Dunwich Legacy expansion. Sure enough once more cards were available and allowed for a deeper deck building experience, the game got some legs in replayability.
I also bit the bullet and picked up a 2nd core. My game group could regularly seat four players. While I found a single core and the Dunwich Legacy cards allowed us to craft decks for 3 players (with a little arm twisting), 4 players consistently was a little difficult. I also discovered with all the expansions and additional copies of the investigator cards, my little foam board box insert wasn’t going to cut it. Fortunately Go7 Gaming had just the product for me. They offer a box insert and dividers for the Arkham Horror LCG which is a great little card organizer.
I fell in love with their inserts, especially the one for Netrunner’s Terminal Directive expansion. That box insert was a snap to assemble and was cleverly designed. The question was would their Arkham Horror insert hold up to snuff?
Like all of their inserts the material is HDF board which is laser cut. The pieces pretty much just pop out of the mounting boards. Mind though that the longer sections that had teeth for the card dividers took a little more care to remove. Some laser cut products will have a lot of soot generated during the cutting process as the material is burned. I found even with areas that had intricate cuts, no excessive scorching or ash was on my hands as I handled the cut sections. But for extra peace of mind I would give the edges a quick run over with a damp cloth before assembly.
The instructions were clear and easy to follow. Take your time though. The box is well designed and pretty intuitive to assemble, however there are specific pieces that form the outside frame of the organizer and you can potentially muck up your insert assembling them improperly.
In addition to the box insert frame for the cards is an internal section and organizer for tokens. It forms a separate box that can be removed and has several individual dividers to customize it. The individual compartments are pretty spacious and I was able to easily store 2 full sets of player tokens from the core boxes. Sadly there wasn’t enough room to also keep the chaos tokens though. However if using a card divider, you could make an additional compartment to create one.
Speaking of the card dividers, these are a departure some in the material used for the box components. Rather than HDF board they are made of a clear acrylic. They are cut well and fit easily into the organizer frame without the need of any glue. All the while they sit securely in place without any loose play or rattling. One complaint though is it’s a bit of a pain to peel off the paper covering the individual dividers (but that might be due to short fingernails over anything else).
With the individual dividers assembled it was easy to add and remove cards. I found with penny sleeves I could comfortably hold 7 cards per individual section if the dividers were slotted back to back. Yet with more cards it was a little hard to remove and put back in. The dividers are also an interesting design as it creates a larger gap in the center of the box for space to hold the rule books, with an elevated side at the outer edge of the organizer.
The box insert sits a little higher than the base of the box, but the cover still fits snugly. All in all it is a great card organizer with plenty of small features to ensure your cards stay put, even if the box is tilted on its side. I even understand there are optional pieces that can be added to store the miniature investigator cards if needed. It’s a great product and given that you need so many separated sets of encounter cards, something to consider using if looking for storage options.
While I found the legacy game in Terminal Directive sort of ‘blah’ I do feel it’s a great expansion to pick up. If anything just being a great value for your dollar for the number of factions it supports, adding a lot of quality cards to your pool. However a running joke from folks is the size of the box. It’s huge and the stuff inside takes up a miniscule amount of space.
Another thing looming for Netrunner is that rotation has finally hit, and a new core set will be out in a few months. So I wanted to think about making an insert for my box keeping all my playable cards in one place, with rotated cards being stored in my old core set box. I was all set to make something out of foam board and then I ran across custom box insert for Terminal Directive from Go7 Gaming. They offer organizers that are laser cut into HDF board. The product itself is a series of cut sheets in a ziplock bag, with a nice diagram instruction sheet for assembly. I also picked up a set of additional dividers.
They are cut exceedingly well and for the most part pop out with minimal force (almost with just a tap of the finger). However I will say some extra care has to be taken when removing the larger sections for the card organizer pieces. These took a little more effort and care to separate but mostly due to the fine edge cuts for all the individual teeth of the organizer section. The edges are cut with minimal scorching and practically no soot. I’d still give each edge a one over with a damp towel to make sure, but I didn’t notice any black smudges on my fingers handling the pieces.
Assembly was easy. The pieces fit together tightly and held in place, even without any glue. Just a dab of white glue on some key joints and I was able to assemble it in no time. However be sure to be patient and let the organizer sit overnight before throwing in your cards. Take care to read the instructions also. They are easy to follow but the pieces are similar in shape and the organizer certainly has a specific order for assembly. Best to make sure most of the pieces stay in their board mounts, and separate only the ones you want to work with instead of punching out all of the pieces at once.
The divider offers four main sections, with individual divider pieces. The individual dividers don’t require any glue and hold in place fairly snugly. The organizer also sits elevated in the box to provide some storage space for the campaign rules. A nice touch for allowing you to keep everything in the box and still allow easy access to cards.
I have my cards in Pro-fit sleeves. The capacity for the organizer is very generous. I was able to keep all my runner and corp cards from a single core, the big box expansions, and a few additional copies from draft decks all together. The only downside is the material adds some heft to the box. Other than that for about $20 you get a nice little card organizer. Yes, you could build your own out of foamboard. However the ease of assembly, time saved on design and construction, and an end product that is very sturdy material makes the Terminal Directive Go7 Gaming box insert a wonderful buy.