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Hello!

This article will be the first in a series regarding Warhammer 40,000 Conquest: The (Living) Card Game. I’m doing a number of overview for a friend who runs his own online board game store – Dicing on the Cake!

You can read more about it here: https://www.facebook.com/DicingOnTheCake

Now that we’re one chapter pack into the game with a deluxe expansion on the way – let’s take a look at some Factions and their Warlords.

First up – Astra Militarum!

Or ‘Imperial Guard’ to those of you not worried about the fact that you can’t trademark something called ‘Imperial Guard’.

In the table-top game, The Guard quite often could be seen using mass-numbers as a tactic over specialised units, however in the card game this is dialled down somewhat. With units spanning a range of cost bands, Imperial Guard seem to favour a Combined Arms approach, utilising key Army units that span across troops, and vehicles, with a high number of support options and some supporting mechanics in the form of deck search and sacrificing units.

They are also one of the four factions that currently have access to token units – the other three being Dark Eldar, Orks and Chaos. When the Tyranid-themed ‘Great Devourer’ expansion comes out next month (we think?), the new faction will also have their own set of Token Units – Termagants.

Unfortunately, unlike factions like the Dark Eldar and Orks, the Imperial Guard token units are fairly underutilised at the moment. There are no cards outside of Warlord signature cards that can summon tokens to the field. Coteaz, the newest Warlord, has a single signature Support card that allows you to draw tokens, while Straken has a Support card and four signature Army Units that can get tokens into play. They are a great asset for the smattering of sacrifice mechanics you see in the Guard line-up, but it’s a shame they are not catered too more.

The new Warlord coming with the second Warpack cycle however shows some promise in this area.

Warlords

Colonel Straken was the Warlord that came with the Core Set. He’s a fairly simple Warlord to use – his ability allows every Soldier or Warrior card to get +1 to Attack. Simples. You don’t have to do any complex manoeuvring or plays to get his ability to work, so from a deck-building perspective just make sure you throw in a lot of keyword-matching cards. Orks are a good ally for Straken, since they have a lot of Warriors and Soldiers amongst their non-loyal pool, and many of them are quite cheap as well.

Straken’s not very useful when it comes to the Guard’s most powerful plays though. The Infantry Conscripts – which relies on having a lot of supports on the field – only has the ‘Conscript’ keyword, and while not as powerful as the Space Marines, the Guard does have some pretty awesome vehicles as well, such as the Assault Valkyrie, Lemon Russ Tank and the Steel Legion Chimera. None of these benefit from Straken’s ability however.

By comparison, Torquemada Coteaz is a far more engaging prospect to lead your Guard forces into battle. His combat action is all about sacrificing units to boost his attack –so you’ll want to go with a deck that’s largely filed with disposable 1 cost or 2 cost units. Personally, I like to beef up the mid-cost range with some Chimeras and a couple of Tanks or Valkyries, but with cards like Staging Grounds, you’ll want to keep the majority of your units cheap. Again, Orks are a great ally here, as they have some pretty good cards that are 2-cost, and even an event called Made Ta Fight which, when you read it, sounds more suited to a Guard deck than an Ork deck anyway. It’s a shame they don’t do more with ‘Inquisitor’ as a keyword, but it’s still early days yet.

You have to be careful with Coteaz though, as sacrificing units means you have less attacks per round, even if the +3 usually makes Coteaz better than the card you’re sacrificing. Catachan Outposts and Staging Grounds are essential in a Coteaz Deck, as is To Arms! Which is a good ‘support’ Event for Supports.

Hope you enjoyed today’s post – we’ll go through all the factions, posting surface thoughts and ‘drive-by’ analysis of the various decks, to give you a brief overview as to what you can expect. More in-depth analysis may come later!

Don’t forget to check out www.dicingonthecake.com, or message them over Facebook regarding stock. It’s not too late to join the fight for the Traxis Sector!

So, at the weekend I played a Megagame. What’s a megagame? Go look it up, it’s amazing. Shut Up & Sit Down have a fantastic video about the Alien Invasion Megagame they played last year, called Watch the Skies. What I played was the sequel – Watch the Skies 2: Global Conspiracy.

I’m writing this blog post because I want to get some thoughts down about it before I forget, and obviously I want to leave some open feedback for the developers. Me and my team have already discussed this all to death, but it’ll be good to share.

First off, let me pre-face by saying that it was one of the most amazing, unique experiences I’ve ever had. I’d happily do it again, and in fact me and my friends have already signed up for ‘Come to a King’, a Megagame set in 11th Century England. I’m hoping to be a Saxon Warlord.

Anyway, back to Saturday…

A lot of things broke that day.

Scaling a game that originally had like, 50 people? To one that has to accommodate 300 was never going to work 100%. The fact that it went as well as it did is a testament to all of the hard work put in by the various control teams, and the players themselves for trying to adapt and engage with the tools given to them.

I’m not going to talk about it too much as it wasn’t my department, but it sounded like the Science element needs a major overhaul. I know my science guy struggled with a control team that kept changing the rules, struggled with a tech tree he barely had time to get to grips with, struggled with  … the fact that he did as well as he did is amazing, but even the rest of us thought he had the short end of the stick.

For my part, I had my own struggle with rule systems that kept changing. There were a few things mentioned explicitly in the handbook that I found had been changed on the day. Corps upgrades, SIF upgrades, mobilisation rules… I did feel like I spent perhaps too much time talking to control about rule-clarifications.

** Just to be clear, my local control team was amazing, especially the lady I kept talking to. She was really helpful and I feel bad for badgering her so often. **

But there were also a few instances where my team were told conflicting information, like how spies worked in the different phases.

I think generally there was a conflict between the systems that had rules, and the systems that didn’t.

I kept given money to corporations for deals I had going on, only for someone else to come around a phase or two later to ask for the money I’d already given them. Seems they’d decided to collect the money for everything in different phases, and hadn’t told any of their actual customers, so that was confusing (but we sorted it out and I was very happy with what I got from them – a shiny new Modern Army, + 1 PR, and some epic regional terror deduction. Boss).

Had zero contact with Humanity first, The Papacy, or in fact members from other world regions who didn’t specifically come to the EU zone.

I won’t go on, but in summary: Many bits buckled, some bits broke, but the game ran as well as it could have done.

Blessed are the Greeks

Our local problem in the EU region to keep us busy before the Aliens turned up was Greece. Some rebel military organisation had seized the oilfields there, and Turkey and the rest of the central region close to Greece weren’t happy.

Turkey etc… threatened to invade, the Americans were butting their noses in… and yet as a region I’m not entirely sure we handled things very well. Really, for the first couple of turns we were all struggling to get to grips with the game, so that’s why nothing really happened. I think from my side at least It took me a while to see it as a problem we actually had to interact with. I’d gone in to the game too excited about the Alien element, and I guess I was just waiting for them to show up.

Greece proved to be a problem that would never be solved, and I’m not so sure it isn’t just as much the game’s fault as it was our own. Here is a breakdown of how I saw things. Again, not being directly involved, I have a narrow view of things:

  • Not really being able to mobilise and send in troops, there was nothing we could do from that perspective.
  • The UN mandated economic sanctions against Greece, so I assumed that meant they didn’t want to send in troops initially either.
  • That left political influence. First couple of turns everyone was rebuffed, but then my Minister and the Italians managed to get a foothold. The plan was to get the Greek rebels to back down, while getting the Turkish to back off and give them some money to keep them happy.
  • The problem is, even when my minister rolled 6’s, and influenced the holy f**k out of Greece, all we got back was “We’ll think about it”. And then another turn would pass.

It got to a point where I didn’t really know what we could do from a game perspective to ‘sort Greece out’. And then Greece erupted into civil war instead so we got the UN to send in peacekeepers. After that, I didn’t really see what else we could do because the UN was directly involved.

I’ve read several comments already on how ‘frustrated’ the US and the central powers were about Greece not getting sorted out, but all I can say is that we felt we did all the game allowed us to do, and once the UN went in it was out of our hands.

Highlights

 As I mentioned above, the day was amazing. Here is a few of the reasons why:

  • We were insanely rich. At one point my General alleged that, when we’d just hit maximum PR, we were the richest nation on the planet (he’d gone for a wonder). Generally PR and money were NEVER a problem thanks to some good deals made on my part, some good science on the part of my Scientist, and generally keeping on top of the PR score.
  • Telling the Americans that their nuke was safe and that, no, they couldn’t base troops in Germany, only for the aliens to then land on Germany and leave a card behind for everyone to see. God damn it. I still don’t even know what that fecking thing was about.
  • Rallying to a call to mobilise interceptors to Antarctica. Only two alien saucers turned up, and each had about four SIFs on it, and none of us managed to shoot the buggers down. I learned much later that me (and about 7 other nations) had massively breached international law by doing that (although there were no consequences, which there probably should have been). Oops. I also decided not to waste my time with such a deployment again.
  • Rallying the EU leaders into firming up the EuroUnion to resist outside meddling from Russia and the US. Europeans will solve European problems… although I’m not sure how effectively we managed that in the end, given what I said above.
  • My foreign minister telling me that he had the Greece situation sorted. The next turn he told me that he’d accidentally caused a civil war.
  • Thinking for a few minutes that the abduction of the UNSC was due to the fact that my General had shot down an interceptor that turn. The alien player maintains the saucer was over Geneva to pick up the delegation, but my general says it was in German airspace, so I support him. Another saucer managed to land that WAS firmly in Swiss airspace, which we ignored, which then abducted the UNSC.
  • Learning that the Aliens were fighting some kind of interstellar war amongst themselves and using Earth as some last-ditch, back-water refuelling post. This was a highlight only in the sense that it made me really cross, hah.
  • Another thing that got me a little cross is that, whenever a UFO appeared over Germany (we didn’t get that many), EVERYONE bum rushed their interceptors into our air-space. Sure, it’s ok, just come right in. It’s not like we have sovereign rights or anything. I kind of blame the game for that one though.
  • Fighting Russia to a standstill in the Ukraine. I’m still not entirely sure about how easily we got dragged in to that 11th hour conflict, but when civil war broke out in the Ukraine I let my General mobilise, and he sent an army unit to the Polish/Ukraine border, to ensure the conflict didn’t spill over. Next thing I knew the Polish army AND ours had joined one half of Ukraine and was squaring up against the other half, along with Russia. He exchanged fire and it was a draw (epic rolling on his part), but then that meant the whole of NATO was then at war with Russia.
  • My Foreign Minister then had his finest hour and first of all got the Russian to back down, and then went to the Americans and got them to not send in the troops. I’d like to think I helped a little with that.

The ultimate icing on the cake though was a plan me and the French leader were discussing to try and rescue the UN delegation. Operation ‘Trojan Horse’ – my scientist had researched the tech for a sub-orbital civilian transport, and the French had (somehow) managed to research Interstellar Marines. Together, we were going to attempt to mount a rescue (I don’t even know if it would have worked, given it was only a sub-orbital ship. Maybe we could have captured a saucer and ridden that to the Moon or something). Due to some frankly beardy rulings by the science control team, we lost a turn or two trying to get everything in place, but then we were ready. On Turn 10, we were going to mount our operation. There was no Turn 10.

—————–

My final thought is one that I’m not particularly proud of, but something I’d like to share anyway. This will probably make me sound jealous and slightly childish. Here goes anyway:

I felt a little left out.

My expectations going into the game was that it would be some grand Alien incursion onto the globe for reasons beyond our understanding. There were six alien teams – conveniently one of every region, so I expected every region to be heavy with alien activity due to some master-plan involving all of humanity.

Really, it was just about the Japanese and their Whaling. And something about the aliens needing to mine minerals to fight a war they were losing, neither of which meant that Europe was particularly bothered by extra-terrestrials. From what I gather, every region had varying degrees of alien interaction, with East Asia getting perhaps the most (hell, Tokyo was destroyed), and it felt like Europe the least.

I think what bugs me the most is with a storyline like that driving a lot of the alien interaction, we didn’t really need to be there – whether the European nations were played or not, Africa would have still lost its kittens, Japan would still have had to deal with sentient Whales and then been bombarded from orbit… It was an interesting story, an amusing story, and a story worth telling. It was just one that didn’t seem to need me or my team. That made me a little sad.

Hell, If it wasn’t for the fact that we were wrestling with a crisis in Greece all game, we’d have had very little to do. Looking back, the game me and team ended up playing had nothing to do with Aliens. It was an incredibly fun game, full of political tension, high-level negotiations, rebels, and sure the odd UFO to shoot down. Every now and then I’d have a meeting to discuss the Alien problem that was only really a problem to other people.

Ultimately, it wasn’t the game we were expecting to play. Dare I say, it wasn’t the game we paid to play.

If I were to sum up this last point, it would be that I feel  my team worked amazingly hard, did a really good job at the EU regional table, and at the end of the day it felt like none of it really mattered because control had come up with this wonderful plot for the aliens that seemed to revolve around a handful of specific nations that weren’t us. I gather we missed out a lot of the ‘Real Deal’ talks in the pub afterwards (we were knackered and decided to go drink back in Kent), but it would have been nice to have had more of ‘big picture’ debrief at the end.

Other than that, it was the best day of my life. Probably.

WHK01-box-leftSo I play card games now. I haven’t played a card game in years. Growing up I used to collect Pokémon cards (we never played the actual game though, as it was a bit naff), and after that it was Yu-Gi-Oh cars, because the TV show was pretty awesome and we’d just “IT’S TIME TO DUEL” at each other and send everyone to the shadow realm.

That was then, though, and after I went to Uni I didn’t really play anything. Videogames have always been my thing, and most recently my job, but they kind of stopped being a hobby for me, which is probably why I’ve jumped back into board games with so much passion. It helps that I have a good group of friends that I can play with, as well as a local club, but I’m really enjoying having a ‘hobby’ again after such a long time.

Which brings us back to card games – recently I’ve been playing a lot of Warhammer 40,000: Conquest.

It’s an ‘LCG’ from a company called Fantasy Flight Games. It differs from the games I used to play (and current popular games like Magic), because it does away with the booster system. No longer do you need to spend money on packs with a random chance of what you get – instead everything is known. Aside from the core set, thematic packs are released as part of a cycle, and you’ll always know what cards are in them so you can pick and choose what you want to buy, and these packs always come with three of each card so there’s no question of needing to choose whether or not to pick up a second one. On the flip side, it means less cards per faction (there are 7 base in conquest), but it still builds up gradually.

I like it, for the most part, but being involved from a game from the ground up there is one glaring thing that annoys me about it the system – the Core Sets.

Now, this is only my experience with one of FFG’s LCG’s – there are plenty other (Game of Thrones, for example, is quite interesting. NetRunner has a-symmetrical mechanics, and Star Wars is, well, Star Wars, although I find the actual gameplay a bit confusing and boring). The Core Sets come with a respectable amount of cards – not enough to build a tournament deck with only one faction (you have to combine them), but it’s not the end of the world. Still, because some cards in the core set are so powerful and, well, really good to use in a game, its given rise to a situation where players will buy multiple core sets.

I’m offended by this idea on principle – why should I buy a second core set? I get more cards than I really need (since I’m only really going to play a handful of factions); I get duplicates of the other bits and bobs which I definitely don’t need. The plus side is that I get to make a mono-faction deck, but to be honest I shouldn’t HAVE to buy a second core to have that option at launch.

I get it – this thinking is completely on me – but coming videogames it smacks a little bit of ‘pay to win’ because those that do want to spend money on two (even three!?) Core Sets have a decided advantage. Not total supremacy – you can have a good deck but a bad player, after all – but having more versions of certain cards than one core set allows you does come with certain advantages.

But I shall remain strong – there are some people at my club with multiple core sets, so I’m going to play against them as much as possible to try and learn how to deal with the card disadvantage. Plus, I’m banking on Core Set cards becoming less of a thing when Conquest gets onto its second and third cycle (of which there are around 8 packs in a cycle) as well as the ‘big box’ expansions they’ll do from time to time. I’m already chomping at the bit for Howl of Blackmane, the first War Pack in the first cycle (Warlords) – some really interesting cards in that.

But yeah… Conquest. Get it. I might start talking about it a lot more in the future. That and X-Wing: Miniatures Game.

I don’t know what it is, but despite the fact that I’ve barely posted over the last couple of months (and let’s be honest, this year has been a bit of a write-off so far), but I’m still getting 20 hits a day. Who are you people who keep visiting? What do you want? WHY HAVE YOU COME HERE!? I wonder if WordPress is fudging the numbers to make me feel better. Or even feel guilty. “These people come to your blog day in and day out, and do you talk to them? No. Shame on you” Well, I am ashamed. But mainly because, as a self-proclaimed ‘writer’, I really ought to be spending more time here.

As I mentioned in my pre-holiday post, I’ve been rather bogged down with this data-entry job since I was let go in May. It’s soul-crushing work, and to be honest once I finish my quota I don’t really feel like doing anything else on a computer for the rest of the day. I don’t even play many games at the moment – I’ve got a regular Battlefield 3 squad that I play with. All friends of mine from the area… It’s amazing how BF3 still holds up as being a genuinely solid experience. The only thing that lets it down now is the server populations on the DLC maps. It’s rare that I get to play on a map that was added after release these days.

Still, I’m hearing some positive noises about Battlefield 4 now, and with Hardline on the way the price has dropped in the shops, so I’ve picked up a copy to try out slowly while I wait for the rest of my friends to make the leap as well. I’ve only played one match so far online, and the only thing I’ll say is that their pre-spawn menu UI is horrible. I’m sure I’ll get used to it but I didn’t have a clue how to alter my loadouts or anything like that, or even which class I was. Weird.

Project Ascension

Since I haven’t been posting much, there’s only been a couple of blog updates since I officially announced my book – Project Ascension. You’ll be pleased to know (unless you don’t care) that I’ve now officially begun work on the second draft. I’ve had as much feedback as I’m going to get – 3/4 people read the thing the whole way through, while another couple struggled to get out of the first part. I realised pretty quickly that the first part needed a lot of work – potentially I’m looking at a complete overhaul at this point. But I got some positive feedback overall on the important parts of the book, so that’s encouraging. I’ll let you know how I’ll get on.

Job Update

Won’t waste too much of your time talking about this – but I’m doing ok. It was scary for a few months, and that is part of the reason why I took that data-entry gig, but now interesting times are ahead. I can’t talk about it too much (and I don’t want to jinx anything) but I think I’m done with games writing now. Moving into PR/Marketing work more and more, especially with some of the part-time/project gigs I’ve managed to pick up for the coming months. I may still do some writing, but it’ll be more niche stuff and few and far between I reckon. I’m saving what’s left of my writing passion for my book

Boardgames

Can’t remember how much I’ve talked about this, but I’ve gotten more and more into boardgames over the past year, especially since I lost my job. I may start talking about them more on hear as I’m currently experience the same passion for them as I used to have for videogames back in the beginning. Plus I’m also doing a Megagame in March next year, which I’m very excited about. If you don’t know what that is, go Google it. It looks immense!

That’s all for now. I should really get back to work but I know how worried you’ve all been about me.

Until next time.

It’s been a long time. How have you been? What better post to come back to than a post about Scottish Independence! Now that the vote is in, I feel more comfortable talking about it openly. Seeing as in I’m not Scottish I didn’t really have much right to weigh in before the vote. The Scots have long earned the right to decide their own affairs, and they have.

Personally, I’m glad they decided to stick around. This Union of ours has been through a lot together – Founding a new nation (you’re welcome, America), building an empire, a couple of World Wars… so much heritage and tradition it’d be a shame to throw it all away. Plus videogames only recognise ‘posh’ and Scottish as legitimate British accents, so without you guys we’d be kind of boned on that score.

Sure – England conquered Scotland at a point in history and forcefully bound them to the Crown, and later Westminster. That happened. Before that, the Normans conquered the Saxons, who had taken England from the Romans who took it from the Welsh/Cornish before Scotland was even a thing. Whoever created Scotland in the first place would have had to assert his will over the rest of the country… It’s hard to draw a line on this stuff, but I’m glad we’ve finally learned the harsh lessons America and Ireland taught us and allowed you guys to really decide for yourselves what you want.

There’s still going to be a lot of anger over this I imagine – It wasn’t like this vote was a close run thing but there was around 200K votes between the No and the Yes when the final count was in. I’m sorry the Yes people didn’t get the result they desired. Again, glad you’re still here, but I know it’s not what you wanted. I hope Westminster delivers on some of their promises and makes you guys feel more comfortable about being part of this Union.

My own feelings on the matter have been that a lot of things the ‘Yes’ people seemed to want, bar of course the base desire to be a separate nation, could be granted through smarter and more sympathetic devolution so I hope this becomes reality sooner rather than later.

I’m sorry I haven’t been posting as much – been involved in this database project that takes up a lot of my time, but it’s coming to an end soon and hopefully normal services will be resumed after I’m back from holiday next week.

Chin up ‘Yes’ Scotland, at the very least you’ve all made history today. That’s something you can be proud of.

 

 

 

2014 was the year I gave up on my Xbox 360. I’ve enjoyed owning it, and it’s given me some great memories, but over the last 12 months or so I’ve been throwing myself more and more into PC Gaming. My favourite genre has its home here, there’s been a lot more genuinely innovative games here thanks to the rise of self-publishing, and with the announcement of the Steam Machine late last year… I was ready to give up on the home consoles for good.

I didn’t mean to completely go cold turkey, mind. My pile of shame is shameful indeed, and half of the reason me and the missus bought a 50″ TV was so that we could get a visual treat whilst playing on our consoles. For some reason though, I haven’t touched my 360 for gaming purposes since I moved here last December. Haven’t touched my PS3 either but then the PS3 is something I’ve always almost regretted buying, mainly because I never use it much. The 360 was my favourite console of the last generation, but now that the ‘New’ generation is here, as a 360 owner I don’t feel satisfied anymore. All of the ‘cool’ projects are going to be new-gen from now on. At the very least they will be cross-generational, but I firmly believe buying a cross-gen game for the weaker generation is even more pointless than upgrading to the new generation (it’s looking like things will get better, judging by this year’s E3, but I’ll talk about that in another post).

That only really leaves the odd smattering of games that are still being targeted for the last generation, mainly because the install-base is there and proven, while the new generation don’t quite have the numbers yet to keep everyone happy. You’ve got Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel I guess, but I’ve got Borderlands 2 if I really want my fix for that. GTA V is something I’d rather buy on the PC (now that I know it’s coming), same with AC4, which is a cross-gen title anyway. All in all, I’m left with my existing library but I never really feel inclined to dip into it, so I don’t. Everything I *really* want, I own, and I can’t bring myself to spend the money on speculative purchases anymore when I have so many games already.

In February, I received an email from Xbox Support telling me my card details were incorrect, and that my automatic Xbox Live Subscription Renewal might fail. I didn’t feel inclined to rectify the issue, and I resigned myself to losing the only thing I really enjoy doing on my Xbox towards the end, which is playing multiplayer with my friends. Mainly Battlefield 3. That was four months ago, and all I’ve really done is play on my PC and twiddle my thumbs waiting for more Steam Machine news. Looks like I’ll have to wait until next year now, which is annoying, but what can you do.

Then I lost my Xbox 360 headset.

Well, firstly my best friend said he wanted to start playing Battlefield 3 again, then I realised I’d lost my headset when I went looking for it. Another friend of mine just got a 360 again (long story), so we’re going to surgically insert a copy of Battlefield 3 into his machine. To top it off, looking through my bank statements (for a different reason), I suddenly realised that my renewal payment HAD worked. My annoyance at losing out on 3 month’s worth of Xbox Live time, and free games, was quickly replaced by weird sense of joy and nostalgia as I realised maybe it was time to dust the ol’ gal off and take her for a spin once more.

Of course, I still had no headset, so I made what I suspect will be my last investment in my Xbox 360, and bought a new one.

Actually, I bought a ‘GioTeck Elite Essentials Kit’ for the Xbox 360 from Tesco. It came with a new headset, a HDMI cable AND a rechargeable Battery pack with charger cable. My last Charger cable broke years ago, so this was appreciated – all for £15! In contrast, headsets alone for the Xbox One were retailing for £50 – 80, depending on what type you got. Another reason I’m not adopting new-gen now (if ever) – the pricing of everything.

So, for now, my 360 has been given a breath of fresh air. Will be on Battlefield 3 tonight, and who knows? Might even start looking at some of the other games I’ve got lying around as well. I spend too much time on my PC as it is, so perhaps doing something different for a bit will be healthy. But if I still need my XBL Subscription come February next year, I’ll be surprised. Eventually, it’ll have to go in its box for the last time. What I’ll do with it, I don’t know… I still have my GameCube and my N64 in our loft, but then again I might just trade it in. My missus has a 360 as well, so we don’t really need to keep both, at the end of the day.

Hello, old friend. It’s been a long time.