Board games, Personal, Review, RPGs

What’s on the table?

Welcome to today’s blog post. It’s been a while since my last post, way back in January. Despite us still being in lockdown, February turned out to be a busy month as I picked up some additional work helping my old PhD supervisor with some grant applications to fill in the time I’ve been furloughed, while the rest of my time has been spent fulfilling orders in the store and, of course, playing games. So, let’s take a look at some of the things that have crossed my table over the past month!

Impossible Landscapes

A new drop from the Delta Green RPG kickstarter, into which I poured more money than perhaps I should have, this long awaited campaign for the roleplaying game of modern day Lovecraftian horror finally arrived in PDF at the end of January/beginning of February.

Delta Green has become a permanent fixture on my radar every since it came to my attention after I got back into RPGs in the early 2010s and became obsessed with Call (and Trail) of Cthulhu. Presenting a more mature and less pulpy version of Lovecraft’s mythos than perhaps the titular Call of Cthulhu does, Delta Green has especially been lauded for its take on the King in Yellow mythos. Night Floors, published in the mid-90s, is often touted as one of, if not the best, King in Yellow scenario out there. Impossible Landscapes takes this scenario and all of the concepts originally published in 1999s Delta Green: Countdown, dials the notch up to 11 and served up one of the best mythos inspired campaigns to have been published ever. Period. Seriously, you do your self a disservice by not taking the opportunity to give this one a look.

If you have any love for horror themed roleplaying, especially surreal horror, then Impossible Landscapes is definitely worth a look. Packed full of hooks, it weaves a complex but easy to navigate narrative that is well referenced and burgeoning with all kinds of creepiness. This is something that I am already planning on running in the near future and have begun planning and plotting for it already. Highly recommended.

Air, Land, and Sea (Revised Edition)

You may or may not have seen Air, Land, and Sea featured on Shut Up and Sit Down’s review of recent two-player games. If not, I’d suggest checking it out below as they provide a much more in depth discussion of this interesting little gem of a than I could provide.

This World War 2 themed game involves just 18 cards split across three theatres of war, with six cards for each theatre. Cards within each theatre are numbered 1-6 and all expect for the sixes come with a variety of powers. The aim of the game is to amass 12 victory points before your opponent does and you acquire these victory points by winning battles. Battles are won by either controlling two theatres of war by having a higher value of cards than your opponent in them. Sounds simple enough.

However, where Air, Land and Sea shines and introduces some excellent strategy making is in the fact that cards can be played face up or face down. Play them face up and their value will vary between 1-6 and you get to use the power on the card, which may have an instant or ongoing effect, but you can only play them into their corresponding theatre. Play them face down and you can play a card anywhere, but its value is only 2. Powers on the cards often allow you to flip your or your opponent’s cards face up or face down, allowing you to effect surprises or neutralise your opponents powerful cards. And you always have the option of withdrawing from the battle on your turn, allowing your opponent to win, but potentially limiting the victory points they earn dependant on the number of cards you have left in hand when you do. This strategic decision can mean you get an additional round in which you might just be able to claw things back or amass enough VPs to seize the day.

This combination of planning out your plays to foil you opponent and spring surprised on them, or tactically pull out is the icing on this cake and I think it makes for a great little two-player game that is well worth a place on your shelves. Unfortunately, my wife doesn’t find Air, Land, and Sea quite so appealing, so this one is most likely going to sit on the shelf until I can find another opponent in the post-Covid world…

Cyberpunk RED

I also picked up the slightly delayed Cyberpunk RED core rulebook back in January. Somewhat designed to tie in with the release of the Cyberpunk 2077 videogame, Cyberpunk RED is an update of the early 90s Cyberpunk 2020, this time pushing the timeline forward to 2045.

Cyberpunk has often been lauded at the quintessential cyberpunk roleplaying experience, though Shadowrun is arguably more widely played these days. However, Shadowrun’s recent editions has come under fire from some quarters for being fiddly, with long combats, complex spellcasting and hard to parse hacking. I’ve played Shadowrun 4th Edition before and tackled the buckets of D6 required, and I’ve owned the 500+ paged 5th Edition ever since I picked it from a convention in Scotland for half price, though I’ve never actually gotten around to playing it. I’ll say this though, it is a slog to read and the rules just don’t appeal, so I’ve been on the hunt for a cyberpunk alternative for a while.

Unfortunately, I’ve still to sit down and read through Cyberpunk RED before I can give my opinion on it, something that I am hoping to do once I’ve worked my way through Modiphius’ Conan: Adventures in an Age Undreamed Of, which is currently at the top of my reading pile. As soon as I’ve managed to give it a read, I’ll be sure to post my thoughts.

Wyrd Science

The last thing I’d like to bring to your attention is the item that I would most recommend you investing your time in acquiring and reading. And that is Wyrd Science, a new magazine devoted to gaming. Born from a Kickstarter last year, this Session 0 issue is an absolute joy to read. Focusing on all aspects of tabletop gaming (though with a slight lean towards wargames and RPGs), the articles are written with both love and passion for their subject matter that sometimes doesn’t come through in more mainstream journalistic faire, such as Tabletop Gaming Magazine. There is a good range of items on the menu as well, from interesting op eds on the state of tabletop gaming and how the coronavirus pandemic of 2020 has affected things, to interviews with designers, writers ad artists like Keiron Gillen and Simon Stalenhag. There is even a short story from Josh Reynolds of Black Library fame. I highly recommend giving this zine a look and reading it makes me interested in exploring the other tabletop focused zines out there, such as Senet. I’ll definitely be picking up their next issue, which will hopefully hit Kickstarter in late spring/early summer.

Thanks about it…

That about wraps it up for now – it’s been a relatively slow start to the year in terms of releases and we’ve noticed some slow down and delays for some things we’ve been expecting. For example, the current Arkham Horror LCG mythos pack looks to be delayed and there’s still no sign yet for the next books for Warhammer Fantasy Role Play’s Enemy Within campaign (despite Cubicle 7 churning out the PDF releases). I’ve got a few books on my reading pile that I’m slogging my way through (Conan: Adventures in an Age Undreamed Of being at the top) and I’ve recently started playing in a Liminal game which is very enjoyable, so I expect I’ll supply my thoughts on that too.

For now though, before I sign off, I’ll just briefly touch on my recent office move. In January, me and Elizabeth switched offices so she could have a bigger space to work in and I could have all my geekery surrounding me (mostly) in one place. I’m quite pleased with the results, as you can see below.

While compact, it’s pretty much the room I’ve always dreamed of, packed full of RPGs, comics and with a great set up for painting, working and playing games online (which is very necessary at the moment!). I couldn’t be happier with it. I even managed to squeeze some display cabinets in for my miniatures, something that I’ve always wanted to have. Your painting shouldn’t be confined to bags or boxes, but displayed proudly.

So, as I finish with this, I just want to say that, yes 2020 as a year sucked, and 2021 hasn’t started off great either. But make sure that you take the time to do something for you – whether that’s reading a book, painting some minis, playing your favourite game, or even creating your own nerdy space. You deserve it!

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