Frostgrave in Summer: The Living Museum

I should be calling this series Frostgrave in Winter now. It had been ages since our club was able to meet over the past few months but I finally managed to get a game in during January. I ended up going head to head with another Necromancer. I still was a little tepid to blow all my cash and kept a warband of thugs, archers, an infantry man, and a man-at-arms going. With my finances a little low, I felt it difficult to justify dumping it into heavy hitters. My opponent had a pretty fat treasury and fielded a barbarian, a few trackers, infantrymen, and a couple of thugs to round out his warband. I was pretty outclassed, and his figures were better painted to boot!

We had a pretty compact setup in the center of the table. Like the complex temple, treasure taken would randomly activate a statue creating a living construct. Surely we’d have a big scrum in the middle. I still didn’t want to risk a lucky shot with his trackers so I deployed in cover, broken up into two main forces. I had by archers and a thief stick at the periphery though. I lucked out and was able to successfully cast Reveal Secrets meaning I’d get one extra treasure close to my deployment area.


Fortunately I got the initiative and decided to move up and try for a spell. I successfully cast Fog which provided me a little cover from his ranged attackers and his apprentice. Those necromancers and their pesky Bone Dart was not a fun proposition to leave long avenues of open sight to my casters. I also successfully managed to cast Push from my apprentice and get an infantryman way forward in position near the statues.


My opponent moved in and slipped through the Fog, while his necromancer decided to throw a wrench into my advance and drop an Elemental Wall between our warbands. He began to scoop up treasure and unfortunately got the brunt of the medium constructs.

On the following turn I cast Blinding Light on his barbarian, making it susceptible to any nearby constructs. My opponent countered this getting his warband into the thick of the fight, tangling up the living statues before they could activate and cut down his barbarian. Your fight stat goes to zero and you cannot initiate any attacks making the barbarian an especially fragile target.

Honestly for the early part of the game, things were looking up for me. I got the initiative and managed to get off most of my spells, hitting his apprentice and his wizard once each with Blinding Light. They shook it off but losing the chance to cast LOS spells hurt. He flubbed a few spells and pumped up his casting rolls a few times too, meaning his necromancer was nearly at half health mid-game.

But things started to slip away for me. Most of the wandering creatures saw my warband as the more tasty morsels. I had to use my archers to dispatch skeletons and my apprentice to blind a minor demon that came onto the table. This alleviated a lot of pressure on my opponent that was able to take out several constructs, throw up another Elemental Wall, and start moving treasure off the board,


I turned around and Dispelled his walls and further decided to go all in with my warband, trying to take out his wizard. Sending in an infantry man and a man-at-arms, I figured round after round of attacks I’d eventually get a lucky blow in. Even if I could not kill him outright, I thought I’d be able to at least wound him. I was terribly mistaken. His necromancer pretty much aced all his fighting rolls and dispatched my followers. So much for my cunning plan.

That was enough to spook him a bit though, especially as my archers were essentially free to fire. I had lucked out on my Blinding Light casting roll for the minor demon and it wasn’t able to shake off the effects of the spell for several turns. My opponent was able to cast Leap on a few of his followers. Even a few peppered shots from my archers went wide and he was able to get his forces off the table. Meanwhile, a lone construct managed to take out a quarter of my warband, including my apprentice!

I was able to only get two treasures off. I got a good use of a Transpose spell and my thief scooped up an early acquisition that was found using Reveal Secrets. My opponent got 3 treasures to my two. I braced myself for the worst with my apprentice, but it appeared that Marsha was able to make it back to base camp in one piece.


I did lose a thug and my man-at-arms was severely wounded. I came away with a couple of potions and a paltry sum of gold. I also only was able to sneak out 3 levels of XP compared to my opponent that got 4 levels. A big chunk of this disparity in XP was my warband suffering so many casualties. With my newfound levels I buffed up my fight and health stat, and decided to throw a point into Transpose. It’s still a tricky spell for me to cast but I’m hopeful to be able to land it more consistently in the future.

The expedition was not quite suffering a drubbing, but not a rousing success either. I was really hoping for a third treasure and I found that the inflexibility of Push is a poor substitute to Leap. My opponents are able to clean up the board using that mobility spell. Regardless I am solidly in last place for the league. With only two more games left, I need a miracle match to hope in even going up a rank.

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New mini-expansion for Arkham Horror LCG announced

One slight complaint I had with the base campaign for the Arkham Horror LCG was that after a few playthroughs things were going to get repetitive. You’d have the same location cards, the same agenda and act cards, nothing really would change and repetition would creep in. This is alleviated some in the 2nd and 3rd scenarios as there are excess location cards, throwing a little variety into the layouts for those scenarios. I mentioned a small expansion that could add some additional location cards would be great to stretch out the replay of the core set. Seems folks at Fantasy Flight had the same idea.

Return to Night of the Zealot is a new campaign that has just been announced. With roughly 60 cards, this mini-expansion supplements the original core set campaign, adding new agenda and location cards to provide a different experience. Additionally there are new monsters and encounter cards that ramp up the challenge. I’m happy to see this being explored for the core set. A small tweak like having additional location cards really opens up the replay potential for it.

In addition to the new scenario cards are new investigator cards. Most seems to be improved versions for those in the original box. Get a few XP and you can change out a couple of level 0 cards with better versions. On this point I am a little disappointed. It’s wonderful to have more investigator cards for the game, but I wish more were included to lessen the need for buying a 2nd core. Why not also include the full spread of neutral cards and a couple of key level 0 cards for every class? That could potentially allow 3 or 4 people to play and add a ton more value to this expansion.

It’s also alluded that there are challenges introduced into the game. Sort of some type of achievement which might offer additional rewards or player abilities. The details on that seem a bit murky, but might offer a fun side event to the main game. Lastly the packaging seems to allow for you to store all the core set encounter and scenario cards together inside this box, offering a better way to organize your cards. A nice touch to make the packaging more functional.

Despite my niggles, overall I am excited to see this. The jury is out, but I could see this as a solid ‘next step’ purchase for those wanting to get into the game a little more. I’m still working my way through the Dunwich Legacy expansion. Overall it’s great and the base expansion set adds a ton to the game, but I have a reservation with it.

The base expansion set only has 2 scenarios and essentially sets the stage for a full blown campaign. You really need to purchase all the mythos scenario packs to complete Dunwich Legacy. That is a huge buy in. Return of the Zealot offers additional play with just the core set and a smaller initial purchase. If you dig Arkham Horror but didn’t necessarily want to try out a long, extensive campaign, this product seems to be an ideal choice. Something to add to the core set experience, but not require you to purchase a ton of scenario packs to get an entire campaign.

We’ll see how it fares. Tad disappointed that more effort wasn’t made to expand the player count and open deck building options with this expansion. However I’m glad to see the campaign was revisited and some love given to it. Great to see cards added to offer a different play experience and stretch out the replay value of the core set.

What’s next after the revised Netrunner core?

So you’ve picked up the new revised Netrunner core set and wondering what to get next. Or maybe you are itching to jump in and are thinking about making a big initial purchase. Where do you start expanding your card collection? What are some ideal buys to stretch out the value of your first purchases? I’ve got bit of advice.

First qualifier on this is that thankfully Netrunner is a LCG (Living Card Game). That means you don’t have to mess around with any collectable aspect. When you buy an expansion, all the cards will be there in an even distribution. The downside is that if you wanted to hunt down a specific card or two, you have to pretty much buy the entire expansion pack it comes with. Still, as there is no collection aspect you can expect sets and expansions to get reprinted. Rarity isn’t part of the card pool, so you can take your time getting what you want (a big caveat regarding rotation though…more on that later).

The second qualifier on this advice is that you’ll be wanting to dabble in tournaments. If you envision playing with the same small group in a relaxed atmosphere, you don’t need to get too many cards. Limitations like banned or restricted cards from the Most Wanted List or tournament formats like Cache Refresh won’t really impact your purchases. If you are considering playing tournaments however, it’s something to think about especially regarding buying data packs.

The third qualifier on this is that I’m assuming you want to limit your initial purchases. At best you are going for a slow trickle of acquiring cards. If you are a completionist and have to get everything then there’s nothing for you here. Just run off and buy everything starting with the first two data pack cycles. For the rest of you here’s a couple of tips…

Play the core set – You might have already played the hell out of the core set. In which case you can move along to the next points. But if you are holding the core set in your hands at a store right now and thinking about also picking up some other expansions, don’t. Just take that core set home with you and play.

Play each faction. At the very least play (and play against) each corporation. You want at least eight games going in. I would consider even trying different runner factions against each corp. There are some advantages doing this, and something you should strive for before picking up more cards.

I would try the tutorial decks maybe once, but understand that the decks they use are illegal regarding influence and regular deck construction. In fact I’m sort of baffled why they did this. Instead go by the old core standard of picking one faction and all the neutral cards for them, shuffle the cards, and just play. Hold off taking a stab at deck building quite yet.

You will learn a lot. You will get an idea how each faction plays, including advantages and shortcomings. Another plus is by just using decks of a single faction and neutral cards, it will significantly lower the learning curve. Eventually the neutral cards will be familiar, so you don’t get overwhelmed with lots of new information as you’re playing more games.

Once you have familiarity with the card pool, you can start swapping out cards you don’t like for others keeping within the influence limitations and… boom. You are now deck building. It’s not that intimidating. Yes, after a few games making your own decks, you’ll get the hankering to buy more cards but at least you’re doing it with a firm knowledge foundation of the core set.

Do you need a second core? – Eventually you might want to. One gripe I have with the revised core is there are a lot of single card copies compared to the first edition. Still you have a group of cards that are much more useful with less duds than in the original core set. If the Netrunner bug bites deep and you find yourself super serious about competitive deck building, you likely want to consider getting a second core soonish. However you can also work with one core, buying other expansions, and still enjoy a deep deck building experience. My advice is to hold off on a second core and focus on purchases for expansions first, then revisit the idea of a second (or third) core later.

The deluxe expansions – Also known as the big box expansions, most of these focus on a single corp and runner faction. Once you’ve played a lot, you will likely figure out the runner and corp factions you like. Picking up a box expansion that has cards for factions you enjoy playing is a solid choice.

One snag to this might be the Data and Destiny expansion. Be mindful it only has NBN corp cards. The runner cards in this expansion are 3 ‘mini-factions.’ They are interesting and can certainly open up more play options for you, but I’d consider them for more advanced players and trickier deck construction.

A new expansion is in the works, Reign and Reverie. This 58 unique card, big box expansion is likely the best purchase for growing your collection. It touches on all the factions for Netrunner. It has a new identity for all, including consoles for each runner faction (especially nice for anarch). More importantly, it adds a new agenda for all the corp factions. While corps can dabble in other factions for ice, assets, and operations, they have limited choices regarding agendas. They have to stick in faction or use neutral ones and having an additional choice makes this a strong buy. The first data pack in the Genesis cycle did the same. Clearly this is designed from the ground up to compliment the core set. Consider this strongly as your next collection buy.

Lumped in with these big box sets is a unique campaign expansion, Terminal Directive. Honestly for the value I would advise this to be near the top of your list (right after Reign and Reverie). You get 4 new IDs and a ton of good cards for 4 factions (rather than just focusing on a single corp and runner like the other deluxe expansions). As an aside, there is also an included legacy campaign game. The legacy campaign is lackluster, but as an expansion it’s a solid buy. I might only make Terminal Directive a fourth purchase if you are a diehard NBN, Jinteki, or Anarch player. Regardless, you certainly want this high up on your buy list.

Data Packs – Netrunner releases roughly every month small 60 card expansion packs, that have 3 copies of each card (so you’re getting about 20 unique cards per pack). These ‘data packs’ are released in a set of 6 and are considered an expansion cycle. Each cycle commonly has a theme among the cards, or introduces a new play concept. There are currently 6 full cycles that have been released, with a 7th on the way.

First point to be aware of is that rotation is in the game now. A while back FF decided that it would eventually retire expansion cycles. Note however the deluxe, big-box expansions like Reign and Reverie are exempt from rotation. These cards will always be part of the pool.

Mind you this is only for players in the competitive scene. If you play with your pals around the kitchen table, this won’t affect you. However as some expansion cycles have rotated out, I don’t expect those old cycles to go back into print. It’s interesting to note that while some cards are being retired, other cards from the first two expansion cycles hit with rotation are now in the core set. So instead of going hog wild for getting all the data packs, consider planning out your purchases.

Start with Kitara – This is the newest expansion cycle for Netrunner. Not everything is out for it yet and because of this you can slowly expand your collection of cards at an easy pace. Another key point is Kitara is the first expansion cycle released with the new core set in mind. I highly suspect the cards in this cycle will complement the core set well. Previous cycles were tied to older core set cards and some of those are removed from the game entirely now. I’d put money on most of the cards in this upcoming expansion having a high amount of synergy with the revised core.

This cycle will also be valid for a long time. As it’s the newest cycle it won’t rotate out so soon. By 2019 the Lunar and Sansan cycle will be on the chopping block. If you wanted to squeeze as much money as you can out of your purchase, I’d consider jumping in with Kitara and maybe go back as far as the Red Sands cycle over delving heavily into older cycles. There are some exceptions though.

Data packs with specific cards – Going this route will be highly dependent on you wanting to play particular deck types. Scorched Earth was a mainstay for kill decks but is no longer in the game. Escalation released a similar heavy hitting meat damage card, Boom! Working a kill deck you might want to pick up that data pack. If you are super keen on playing specific deck types, just buying particular expansion packs can be done. I’d tread this road carefully though. Use online resources like Netrunner DB to pick apart decks you like and track down needed data packs.

2017 Championship Decks While not released yet, you can expect that by Q2/3 of 2018 these decks will be available. These are noteworthy as they are the first champion decks that are compatible with the revised core. You won’t find any cards that are currently out of the game (either due to rotation or being removed from the core set). As another small bonus, if you want to have multiple playable decks on hand these commonly have a solid choices for economy cards, breakers, ice, etc. that they’ll have staple cards used in just about every deck. So it might be possible to have a couple of constructed decks handy and not have to constantly take them apart just for a few cards by purchasing these.

These would be my general suggestions for buying into Netrunner. Focus on a few of the big box expansions first, particularly Reign and Reverie. Pick and choose the smaller data pack expansions, and consider holding off and buying into the newest data pack cycle first. Yes, you can jump in and buy everything. But I’d buy slowly, learning much of the cards as you go, rather than drowning in a sea of cards only using a fraction for your constructed decks.

Arkham Horror Card Game box insert from Go7 Gaming

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.

Board game stores in Germany: Brave New World

I do a bit of travel with work. I’m considering regularly making it a go to see different games stores in countries I visit. As for a recent trip to Cologne in Germany, I happened to track down Brave New World as a happy accident. It is firmly a board game store but also caters to the entire analog gaming hobby as a whole, including a nod towards geek culture in the manner of collectibles.

They carry a smattering of different miniature war games. Most notably Flames of War, Warmachine, and Bolt Action. However a few other plastic boxed sets for ancients and black powder systems can be found on their shelves. They also carry Reaper Bones Miniatures and provide a fair amount of miniature accessories like custom bases. This isn’t quite the miniature wargamers stop off, but they carry a decent number of models and you’d likely find bread and butter units here.

One thing as a miniature wargamer you’d definitely appreciate is the paint selection. They have full stocked racks of Vallejo and Reaper paints. Certainly an ideal place to pick up key colors and hues for modelling. It doesn’t stop there as they also have a wide variety of Osprey books for painting and technical reference. If you are a miniature wargamer, don’t be put off by the Magic and D&D at the store front, it’s certainly worth a visit.

The store also has a well stocked selection of RPGs. They carry plenty of Pathfinder books, as well as a selection from smaller publishers. Lots of other RPG accessories like dice, minis, and battle mats can be found. Interestingly the variety of WotC products are a little slim but all the core books (both in English and German) can be found aplenty.

This is all an aside from what the store really caters to, the board gamer. The selection is immense. Collectable and LCG card games, party games, euro and family games, and I’d be remiss to mention the variety of classic (and new) hex and counter games. I snagged a copy of GMT’s Combat Commander: Mediterranean and had to stifle the urge to pick up a few more. They are also a distributor of Victory Point Games and it was interesting to see their bagged titles having some shelf space. Commonly their games are something you can pick up only online and it was nice have something you could actually hold and browse through.

The full stock of board games is among several shelves that are densely packed, organized by title and a broad classification. You’ll find card games set in their own sections as with a few titles like X-Wing Miniatures, Runewars, Zombicide, and Arcadia Quest. I don’t think I can accurately describe the amount and diversity of games here. It’s staggering with likely hundreds of titles spread among the cult of the new, old classics, and a choice number of limited print run games. Learning the store has been open for roughly 15 years, you quickly can understand how they managed to get such an immense number of games.

Be ready to spend a bit of time when you arrive. The store is split between two levels and a few side rooms. There are a couple of tables set up for in store gaming. While I was there on a late Saturday afternoon a group of people were having an enjoyable time playing party games. The staff were friendly and patiently handled my questions from a typical American that spoke only English. If you are into board games and a fan of gaming in general, Brave New World is certainly worth checking out while in Cologne. I’ll give a special nod towards the hex and counter war gamer. You’ll find some treasures and modern titles among those offered at the store.

Terminal Directive box insert from Go7 Gaming

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.

Travel in Chult for 5E

Picked up Tomb of Annihilation and eager to get my group into the adventure. It really looks fun. One thing stood out for me though was that a decent chunk of the game is a hex crawl. I wanted to dabble some in exploration of the island, but didn’t want the hex-by-hex movement the book suggested. Instead I wanted to farm out the overland travel system I used for Savage Worlds.

It’s an abstract system using milestones and marking provision levels using markers. The journey to a location is divided up into milestones, where each milestone reduces the levels of supplies one by one. If players reach a milestone and are out of provisions they suffer fatigue.

Random encounters and challenges are based on drawing cards. If a face card is drawn, something happens with the suit dictating what event occurs. They can range from getting lost, losing supplies, to even encounters with creatures. I tweaked it some to make it more friendly for 5E D&D.

Nearly all of the obstacles and challenges players will face require group checks. One pickle of course, especially dealing with rations, is there are magical items and spells that would likely counter any effects of obstacles during travel. To take these spells and equipment into account, players get advantage on checks that they make if they use (or have access to) such abilities.

I stumbled across a player friendly map version of a Chult which I like far more than the default blank hex map in the module. In addition for exploring the jungles of Chult, I had some additional rules…

Speed of Travel: For each milestone players should determine their speed. Normal speeds will cover 10 miles per day (a single hex), while traveling by canoe allow for 20 miles per day (2 hexes). The DM should determine the total distance traveled for a single milestone of the trip and decide what likely terrain types will be common for potential events during the trip.

If traveling at a slow pace, roll a d12. A roll of 12 results in the group being able to make up the distance traveled as if they were moving at a normal pace. Otherwise the pace is much slower and the total distance expected to travel for the milestone is halved. There is a bonus of +4 to any checks however as the slow pace allows the group to be better prepared to overcome any challenges.

If travelling at a fast pace the party will travel 1 and ½ times the total distance they normally would cover traveling at a normal pace to reach a milestone. Any checks made during the trip are at a disadvantage. Note this means traveling at a fast pace will cancel any advantage players get due to spells, abilities, magic items, or special equipment for ability checks.

Guides: The guides are a fairly critical part of the initial adventure and I wanted to have them serve some importance here. If a Hearts suit is drawn as an event, the guide makes a difficult Wisdom check (DC 15). If successful they can allow up to two players to make their Wisdom check with advantage to avoid getting lost.

Gear and Equipment: Some equipment like rain catchers can allow players to supplement the provisions they carry. These items will allow players to have advantage on certain checks.

Terrain types: The jungles of Chult are exceedingly difficult to travel and navigate. The region is hot and humid, making one consume far more water than journeys through other lands. The high canopy of trees and foliage make conditions of the jungle almost similar to that of the Underdark. Combined with the dark jungles is hilly terrain crisscrossed with narrow streams, and lack of unique landmarks and direct sunlight make orienteering difficult. Additionally, some regions covered with swampy water attract even more aggressive wildlife. These conditions and lands alter the resolution of events seen in typical overland travel. The normal rules for travel are used however some events may have a greater chance of occurring.

Undead Territory: Areas of lesser and greater Undead Territory are more likely to have a chance to encounter undead. A draw of Spades (2-Ace) indicates that the players have stumbled into an encounter. This is regardless of the terrain type.

Jungle: Deep jungle terrain not broken up by river or coastline is hard to navigate and the rough ground and heat make it more likely provisions will be consumed faster. The jungle also is a refuge for all manners of creatures. A draw of Clubs (8-Ace) means that players may lose one rank of provisions. A draw of Hearts (5-Ace) indicates that the group might become lost and add another milestone to their journey. A draw of Spades (8-Ace) results in a random encounter for the party.

Swamp: The additional water in this terrain makes it more hospitable to wildlife and the fetid marches can be a source for disease. A draw of Spades (5-Ace) results in a random encounter for the party. A draw of Clubs (5-Ace) means that players may lose one rank of provisions.

An example of a travel milestone– A group decides to head south through the jungle of Chult to explore unknown regions and then return to Port Nyanzaru. The DM decides this will take a total of 4 milestones. Two to travel a certain distance out into unexplored land and 2 milestones returning to civilization. They are prepared and have a full complement of rations and water, so they are at the Stocked provision rank and also are taking canoes with them. The DM decides that for the first milestone the group will travel for 7 days, and the group tells the DM they will attempt this first leg of the journey at a normal pace. Note if the players were trying to reach a specific location, the DM would still say the trip would require 4 milestones (2 to reach the destination and 2 to return to Port Nyanzaru), but the actual number of days per milestone could be greater, or less, depending on the map distance.

Looking over the map, the party decides plots a course that will try to take advantage of a nearby river. The group will try to travel 4 hexes (40 miles) in 4 days through the jungle. On the final 3 days they can cover another 6 hexes (60 miles) by canoe rapidly navigating through a great river. This might change however depending on what events transpire during the first part of the journey. The DM expects that at the end of the first milestone the party will have traveled 10 hexes at most.

The DM decides for this initial milestone the party will have three potential challenges. Two will certainly occur when travelling in the jungle, while the third might take place as the group is on the river (or still occur in the jungle depending on what happens). A player draws one card getting a 2 of Spades indicating no major event happens during the first leg of the trip.

A second card is drawn indicating a 7 of Hearts. The group might possibly become lost. They have a guide and a Wisdom check (DC 15) is made for the NPC which fails. This means even the guide is turned around and cannot help the players get through the thick jungle (not allowing the players to make any checks at advantage). The DM decides that a medium DC Wisdom (Survival) is appropriate. One player is a Ranger with the Forest as their favored terrain, and another has a magical compass. The DM allows both of these players to make ability checks with advantage.

Despite this help, most of the party fails their Wisdom (Survival) checks. The entire journey will take another milestone. The DM decides that the players still keep on track direction-wise, but get turned around some or make a bad choice trying to go a certain path leading to an impassable area, adding time to the overall trip. Instead of taking 4 days to travel 40 miles, the party takes 6 days to travel the same distance.

The last check for this milestone the DM decides will be on the river for one additional day of travel. The players have made it through the jungle and are now seeing what event might unfold as they travel by canoe. An ace of Clubs is drawn. Players make another medium DC Wisdom (Survival) group check to determine if they manage to utilize their rations effectively. Again most of the group fails their checks. The DM describes a large portion of food and fresh water is lost as a canoe capsizes. The group loses one rank of provisions and are now at a High rank.

At the end of the first milestone, provisions decrease another rank with the party supplies at a Sufficient rank. At the end of 7 days, the group has traveled 6 hexes. Forty miles through jungle and another 20 miles along the river. As time was lost and another milestone added to the journey, they didn’t travel as far as expected. This is a little open ended as they are not trying to reach a specific destination but rather poke around in unexplored territory. However now the group has a difficult choice.

They can press further, but due to early difficulty navigating through the jungles they’ve severely cut down the territory they can explore. If they were trying to reach a specific location they would have an additional milestone to their journey. They could cut their losses and spend another milestone to return back to Port Nyanzaru, or push on and see if they can get some luck. If they choose to travel further, they can hope when low on provisions they are able to forage enough from the countryside to supplement dwindling supplies.

I’ve used this system with great success in my Savage Worlds games. I like it as it keeps everyone engaged and contributing to the success (or failure) of the group. For 5E I’d consider not allowing automatic successes due to spells and abilities but instead offer advantage on checks. I’d also consider using the ability checks as suggestions and feel free to allow players to pitch the use of other ability checks if they can effectively describe their actions. Strength (Athletics) and Constitution checks might be alternates depending on the conditions and situations the players are tackling.I hope folks find some use for this in their games.

Review: Codenames

From Czech Games Edition, Codenames is a 2-8 person party game (4+ if you wanted a competitive game). It’s a light, word matching game where two teams pair off trying to correctly guess a number of cards before the opposing team does.

Each team has a codemaster that offers clue to their team. A series of cards are set down in a 5 x 5 grid along with a master key diagram. The key diagram indicates which team goes first and which word cards offer points to a team. Almost all of the cards in the grid will give points to one team or the other.

The codemasters take turns offering a single word clue and a number. The hint word should offer some clue to a matching word among the cards, while the number indicates how many cards could match that hint. As an example I might say Banana 2 in hopes that my team selects the word cards Yellow and Fruit.

Each team chooses one card and the cluemaster indicates if they were correct scoring a point for their team or, if they were wrong, scoring a point for the other side. If they were correct they can keep going. Finally, if they manage to select all the correct cards they have the option of choosing one additional card in hopes it’s the right one to score more points. The team with the most points wins the round.

Choose the wrong card for the other team? They immediately lose their turn and the other team scores that point. Also mixed among the word cards worth points are innocent bystanders. These cards not only are worth no points but also end the turn immediately (not allowing a team to try and guess additional cards). To add more tension, one spot among the word cards is an assassin. If a team selects a card that matches an assassin position on the key card diagram, they immediately lose.

It can be very challenging. Offer a poor hint, or potentially too high a hint number, it increases the odds they score a point for the other team (or even lose the game outright). But give too many hints specific to just one card, while being safe, you can find the other team slipping ahead, correctly guessing a majority of the cards with a bold, gutsy multicard hint. It has a wonderful push your luck feel as well as being a clever word matching game.

The Good – It’s a fun, light word game that is great for parties. You can play with odd number of people and still get a rather balanced game. The cards are of good stock and the dual print design is a clever idea. After you select 25 cards and play a round, you can simply flip them over for another round minimizing the fuss of setting up another game.

The Bad – You are certainly dependent on the quality of hints from one player. A botched clue round can likely sink a team’s chances of winning. As a small point, it’s not quite that universal of a game as the words are all in English. For people that speak English as a second language, they might have a difficult time as it’s essentially a word matching game.

The Verdict – Codenames is a quality party game. Fast setup, light rules, and quick play, you’ll get a lot of enjoyment from it. There are a large number of double sided cards (200) allowing for a variety of combinations, and 40 keycards means you will get a ton of replay out of it. A great choice if seeking to add a fun party game to your collection that uses word matching as a key element of play.

Now’s the time to get into Netrunner

Now is a great time to jump into playing Netrunner. Well, not quite yet. We’re still waiting for the release of the new core set but that should be in a few months. I like Netrunner. For a two player game the LCG is an amazing strategic deck builder, paired with resource management through actions and economy, and it’s asymmetric to boot. It really is a great game.

However over the years the number of expansions that have rolled out can make getting into Netrunner daunting. Part of this has been alleviated with rotation. In brief, expansions are released in cycles sets of cards. After a certain number of cycle releases, the oldest cycle expansions will ‘rotate out’ of the game for tournament play. This shakes up the competitive game some and keeps from having a card pool of 5+ years floating around, making the buy in for new players almost insurmountable for the tournament scene.

One caveat to the whole rotation thing is that a few expansions (commonly referred to as big box expansions) are evergreen products. These expansions are exempt from rotation. Like the core set cards, they will always be available for players to use in tournaments. But the new core set is a big deal. Not so much for the cards they are putting into the game but the ones being taken out, retired from the game forever.

There was some chaff in the core set. Some cards likely had big plans originally for being integral parts of the game, but never really went anywhere. Other versions rolled out over the years that were just better in every way to core set choices (I’m looking at you Access to Globalsec). So an opportunity to cull some binder fodder cards from the core is great.

I haven’t had much of a chance to play through updated core set decks. I did play mash decks with the original core set thoroughly though (offhand about 20 or so total games through all the factions). What I mean by mash decks here is gathering all the cards for one faction and their respective neutral sets, mashing them together into a deck, and playing (which is recommended for initial games). I lost a lot playing these types of decks. Rumors abound were that corp decks made this way were neutered some in order to push the concept to runner players that they need to be making runs. That key action is what the game is all about. Granted it wasn’t real deck building but it did allow me to effectively learn the cards and begin to see what gaps and advantages certain factions had. Offhand, even though poorly optimized, I feel the new core offers a better game experience with these type of mash decks.

Aside from some weak ability cards within the old core set, you also had absolutely stellar ones. It’s one point I worry some regarding the future of Netrunner, that power creep might seep into the game. We might get some cards in expansions that surpass the revised core set (and evergreen expansions) in every way, making it almost a requirement that new players have to buy into all the available expansions to be competitive within the tournament scene. That was one solid thing about the old core set. Some cards were staples for competitive decks, even after years. I’m going to try and stay positive for now. Honestly though we have to admit that many old core set cards were so efficient, so versatile, and were key parts to such powerful combos, they almost broke the game.

Yog.0 and Corroder were amazingly efficient breakers. So much so that, like the Criminal console Desperado, not only were they common in many decks, but set the bar so high for cards that followed almost nothing could match them. And if attempts were made to make something equitable, they’d likely introduce such a broken card it’d have adverse effects on the competitive scene.

Some cards like Parasite provided an interesting mechanic of grinding down ice and eventually destroying it completely. As a limited card, it was a game element that offered avenues for some interesting play. However it could also mushroom into some insane combos. Sifr was a console released later that is pretty powerful, yet with Parasite it morphed into an ice destruction machine. Throw in another core card, Déjà Vu, and you now had the potential to demolish 13 pieces of ice over a game, a combo being completely out of whack.

Scorched Earth, a staple card for tag and bag type of decks is also no more. That potential for tagging and flatlining runners is still out there, but harder to pull off. And with having a card like Scorched Earth being removed from the game, clearly is indicating the win condition of flatlining the runner is shifting over to more interactive mechanics.

This doesn’t encompass all the key strategies and deck types that the core set provided (not to mention 3 IDs for the game also being retired). What I want to illustrate though is that these cards being removed from the game have a huge impact on current competitive decks. This really shakes things up. Take any old podcast talking with authority about core standard cards for particular factions, or a plethora of published deck lists, and throw them away. They’re pretty much irrelevant now. That is how much impact this new core set has on the Netrunner scene.

I’ll quickly mention another big aspect of new cards moving into the core set are the inclusion of 3/2 agendas. Every corp now has access to 2 point agendas that only need 3 advancement tokens. That’s a pretty big shift in the game. As they will never rotate out they’ll likely have some wide reaching repercussions to Netrunner overall.

So if buying in right now are the old core sets worth it? A tough call. A fair chunk of cards are literally trash. Along with this are a good number of cards in the first two expansion cycles that are rotating out. Some will be shifting over to the new core set and still be usable. This reddit comment nicely gathers which expansion packs have cards that will be legal with the new core. But consider most expansion packs will be about $12-16 USD for roughly 20 unique cards with 3 copies of each card. For the current core set, you are losing a chunk of cards too.

I’d go with waiting and only consider picking up an old core set if you could get it dirt cheap. Consider the data packs as a decent yardstick for comparative pricing (so $25 USD for an unopened original core isn’t bad). Same with the old data packs. There are so many being rotated out, you are likely better off getting 2 copies of the new core set rather than collecting the entire first 2 data pack cycles. But if you only want to purchase a pack or two? It might be worth buying those packs then.

I’ll complain some here now. Yes, the new core sets appear more playable out of the box for people to pair off against each other. But it’s still saddled with an incomplete distribution of cards. So much so you’ll probably want a second core set at some point if delving deep into tournaments. As a casual player, that money would be better spent in getting evergreen, big-box expansions (especially Terminal Directive which is a solid expansion purchase).

Regardless if Netrunner looked like an interesting game, now is the time to get into it. New players can jump in and enter the game with a more even footing compared to long time players. Not only is rotation hitting, but also this new core set. Everyone is learning novel things about the game and exploring new options. It’s far more dynamic that what we’ve seen in the past. This new core set has shaken up the established game and it’s wonderful.

28mm Russian heavy weapons teams – Plastic Soldier Co.

As I mentioned a long time ago I decided to break off from my typical 20mm scale for Bolt Action and try building a force in 28mm. I settled on a Russian platoon and got the bulk of my troops from Wargames Factory. Their boxed sets are nice but heavy weapons teams were non-existent. I looked around and settled on Plastic Soldier Co. as an alternative.

They have a pretty complete range of Russians available in 28mm. I had gotten the 45mm anti-tank kits and liked them. So I was eager to check out their heavy weapons sets too. There are 2 sets of sprues that come with each box with a variety of models for mortars, MGs, AT rifles, and other crew members.

For mortars you have both minis for the 50-PM 41 as well as 82mm medium mortars. Interestingly, the 82mm mortar has a rectangular base plate. I thought they typically had round base plates, so this might be some variant.RusHVLtMortar

RusHVMedMortar

There are also two sculptures of minis armed with AT rifles. One is prone firing the weapon and another is carrying it. Along with the AT rifle troops are prone loaders.

RusHVATRifle

RusHVATRifleB

RusHVATLoader

Akin to the AT rifle models, you have Maxim M1910 MMGs in poses either being fired or transported with 2 crew (which I didn’t assemble). There are additional crew members but they don’t appear to be feeding the MMG directly or hauling ammunition. I am using a few as spotters for my mortar teams and possibly field them as artillery observers.

RusHVMMG

RusHV

The models are pretty good. They have enough detail to stand out if painted, but I will admit they aren’t as crisp as some other minis I have from different manufacturers. Nonetheless you cannot beat the price, variety, and quality of the kits. They are a great value and not bad if looking for a number of heavy weapons to round out your platoon.