Sentinels of the Multiverse Digital: Infernal Relics

Sentinels of the Multiverse: The Video Game cover, with the core Sentinels arrayed in a shallow V.I haven’t spent much time playing Sentinels of the Multiverse lately, but I’ve been keeping up to date with the development of new material for the digital implementation by Handelabra Games. They host a live Twitch stream every week, archived on their YouTube channel, where they preview characters in development, and you can see how development of multiplayer mode is progressing.

Part of why I haven’t been playing as much Sentinels as I when it first launched, aside from a happy surge in opportunities to play Call of Cthulhu more often and producing Decked! videos, is I found the Rook City content to be far more obnoxious to play than fun. I think I beat all four villains — the Chairman, the Matriarch, Plague Rat and Spite — once. After a couple halfhearted attempts to unlock the variants, I realized that I was launching Steam to play, and then not following through to the game because it felt like a chore.

Today, the Infernal Relics characters are scheduled to become available on Steam — and the Android marketplace and maybe even the iTunes store — so I’m looking forward to trying out the new heroes, Argent Adept and Nightmist. As they’re both pretty crunchy heroes with a lot of moving parts to track, having a computer to enforce the rules will be a huge help in learning how to play them effectively — plus having seen them in play on the live stream, as that’s a good source to pick up tips on combinations of effects, both from the developers and when they relay tips from the chat room.

My hope is that Infernal Relics provides a critical mass of options that I find playing more engaging. The core set by itself got boring after a while, and as I said earlier, I found Rook City added not terribly fun heroes and obnoxiously unfun villains, though that may be down to not spending enough time to learn how to play effectively with or against those elements. At the very least, I’m more interested in the mechanical aspects of Argent Adept and Nightmist as compared to Mr. Fixer and Expatriette, so I’ve got that going for me.

In closing, check out the Infernal Relics trailer:

Decked!: Terror of the Gugs vs. Ancient Rites

When the machinations of Ancient Ones collide, everyone suffers. The minions of Yog-Sothoth and Cthulhu race to bring about their masters’ apotheoses, ending the world and raising the dead lord of R’lyeh, respectively.

Taking advantage of some downtime during Black Moon GamesCall of Cthulhu: The Card Game tournament, Rod and I did what any person would do: we played more Call of Cthulhu. In this match, Rod brought out Terror of the Gugs, which started out as a Gug tribe deck, but has been revised into a more typical Yog-Sothoth mill deck, and I played Ancient Rites, which began life as a Sleeper Below sample deck and expanded into the greater card pool to include more Ancient Ones and the titular conspiracy.

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Call of Cthulhu LCG: The Archmage’s Attaché

the-archmages-attacheWith The Thousand Young rounding the final corner on the road to distribution, Fantasy Flight Games posted a preview of the Call of Cthulhu card designed by the 2013 North American champion, Tom Capor. Expanding the lore of The Mage Known as Magnus, who was last seen in the conspiracy The Mage’s Machinations, is The Archmage’s Attaché — apparently Magnus got a promotion from mage to archmage. Tom explains in the article the meaning of his signature piece of luggage: ” . . . the briefcase became more than just an efficient way to carry my things. It became an ice breaker, and it became my symbol. It showed that I was serious, but didn’t take myself too seriously. I mean, come on, who brings a briefcase to a card game?”

The effect of the card is pretty cool. It attaches to a deck, any deck, and the controller may exhaust the Attaché to reveal the top card of that deck until the end of the phase, which they may play, ignoring resource matching requirements. Right off the bat, this gives you extra potential to play cards of your own, if you’re short on additional draw effects, and can even help with cards from splashed factions, since it ignores resource matching. You can see it also gives you the chance to feed off your opponent’s deck, if you’re feeling lucky about hitting useful cards you can afford to play.

Within The Thousand Young previews, we’ve seen a number of Location support cards with a running theme of effects that reveal the top card of the deck to various ends. It looks like each faction will get something in that vein. Silver Twilight has Garden District, Hastur has Tremé, Cthulhu has Broadmoor, and Shub-Niggurath the French Quarter. The Archmage’s Attaché is a handy new way to check what’s on top of the deck before using those reveal effects. Add in Shub-Niggurath’s new Resilient keyword and suddenly it’s much easier to get information about what’s coming up next in the draw.

Some other appealing applications of the Attaché I’ve seen mentioned include:

  • Rite of the Silver Gate‘s utility can now be maximized, whereas before it was a crap shoot whether either card would actually be discarded.
  • Peter Clover, likewise, gains more effectiveness by knowing the cost of the top card of your deck in advance.
  • Vortex of Time facilitates even more deck control. Leave the card on top if you can play it, or put it on the bottom of the deck, out of harm’s way.
  • Inside Man lets you line up a playable card on top of the deck.

What potential uses for the Archmage’s Attaché are you seeing?

On Figuring It Out Yourself

The slogan "Keep Calm and Do It Yourself" on a red background.Last week on The 40 Year Old Boy, “Let Me Get on Up,” the titular boy, Mike, had an epiphany of sorts. He’s been podcasting for eight years now, delivering a weekly monologue of absurdity with commendable regularity. This week, though, might be the first time he produced it himself. If it was a joke, it’s embedded throughout the episode, as Mike bemoans having to learn Audacity after putting it off for eight years, and Lili the producer laughs gleefully throughout as he comes to grips with having to figure it all out after leaving the work on her for so long.

The validity of Mike’s gripes aside, the chord he struck with me this week was figuring stuff out. When you’re on your own and you don’t have knowledgeable primary sources in your circle of friends, if you want to get anything done, you have to figure stuff out, whether it’s how to play a new board game or how to produce and publish a podcast. Problem-solving is a muscle to develop. Experience breeds eventual success, and success breeds confidence.

Happily, we live in the era of the internet, where there are innumerable how to guides and tutorials on any subject imaginable. The knowledge is available. You have to be willing to start somewhere, though, and you have to be willing to try and see what happens. I taught myself to play Arkham Horror thanks to the rules reference created by Universal Head — now the Esoteric Order of Gamers — and my disinterested yet patient cousin Margot. When I wanted to make a podcast, I figured it out twice. Once in the typical manner, with the PowerPress plugin to publish Carnagecast, and then a no-money route for Held Action Theatre, both times creating a podcast that, from the outside, looked and sounded like any other you would find in the iTunes store. That second time it was entirely about experimenting and testing the workflow. I’m still pretty proud of pulling together so many disparate parts to make a well-produced, syndicated podcast.

The same attitude went into creating Decked! I wanted to learn about publishing video on the web and building a YouTube channel in addition to putting out content for Call of Cthulhu: The Card Game. It also gave me the opportunity to experiment with live streaming a game of Sentinels of the Multiverse, and learn about the software and hardware needs for that style of show.

To circle back to what first got me thinking about building the problem-solving muscle, it’s easy to put up barriers for ourselves. Mike puts up barriers of “I don’t know how to do that,” when he has access to resources to figure it out. I put up barriers of “I don’t have anything worthy to say.” While I enjoy overcoming technological and process-related problems, that’s a barrier with which I still struggle. So I give myself defined spaces in which to work on that. Most recently, it’s becoming fluent in Call of Cthulhu and better able to riff and ride a conversation to make commentary meaningful and entertaining.

And I am, of course, looking for the next opportunity to either exercise skills I have — I still harbor hopes of being able to focus on producing a podcast, rather than being producer-host-everything else — and learn how to do something new. I don’t want to talk about it publicly yet, but I have been learning about and implementing a live streaming installation that’s proven educational and unexpectedly challenging. (The educational part being “don’t needlessly complicate your solutions, Chet.”)

Decked!: Kirby’s Explorations vs. Jack of All Trades

Lodge members of the Order of the Silver Twilight draw on their government connections to win the race against the explorers and investigators of Miskatonic University, as they try to bring to light that which humanity was not meant to know.

In the second match recorded at Black Moon Games‘ recent Call of Cthulhu: The Card Game tournament, Ray brings his brand new Silver Twilight-Agency deck, Jack of All Trades, against Rod’s Kirby’s Explorations, an Explorer-focused Miskatonic University deck previously seen on Decked!

Visit Decked! on YouTube, and hit the subscribe button to keep up to date with the latest videos.

Mage 20th Anniversary’s PDF Materializes

Given the lack of substantive news on the development of Mage‘s 20th anniversary edition — “It’s in yet another round in editing!” was the refrain that I picked out from most of the backer updates — and that I don’t follow news from Onyx Path, I will cop to being downright astonished yesterday afternoon when the email came through with a link to the PDF version of the core book. The Mage anniversary project was something I backed almost out of thoughtless reflex. I don’t know that I ever expected it to truly be done, and certainly not within the time frame they estimated.

And while the project certainly isn’t done, the PDF release is a significant, publicly visible milestone to reach. As in, “Oh yeah, this thing is going to be real! Some day, there will be a new, big, fat purple book on my shelf.”

I only skimmed a few pages last night, but wow. Talk about diving right back into the thick of 1990s White Wolf role-playing material. All that defiant, first-person writing in italicized capital letters, occasionally with lots of exclamation points, really stirs up memories. (And gets the eyes rolling, but Mage as written is what it is, until I make it suit my preferences.)

Decked!: Kirby’s Explorations vs. Rebirth of the Cult

In Black Moon Games‘ first ever Call of Cthulhu: The Card Game tournament, Miskatonic University’s expeditions, led by Jeremiah Kirby, scour the globe for lost knowledge to turn the tide against waves of cultists rising from the grave in service to the Ancient Ones.

Rebirth of the Cult was designed by Obtuse and is posted to CardGameDB.com. Kirby’s Explorations was designed by Rod, who makes his Decked! debut this week. So it’s an episode of firsts: Rod’s debut, our first location recording and Black Moon Games’ first constructed Call of Cthulhu tournament. Additionally, Black Moon celebrated their one year anniversary on May 3rd, 2015, so here’s to many more years of fun!

Visit Decked! on YouTube, and hit the subscribe button to keep up to date with the latest videos.

Call of Cthulhu LCG: The Mark of Madness Announced

The Mark of Madness box cover: the King in Yellow looms before a French city skyline.Even before the next Call of Cthulhu: The Card Game expansion has hit stores, Fantasy Flight announces the next title: The Mark of Madness, giving Hastur’s faction the kind of focused attention that everyone else has enjoyed to date. This time out, the Cultist, Artist and Lunatic subtypes are getting the love, with several featured in the first preview. Cultists were a natural, and everyone hoped Lunatics would get the boost they needed, as a functional Lunatic deck is something I think most Cthulhu players dabble with at least once.

Artist is a surprise to me. It’s a tribe with eleven characters to date, and no cards specifically keying off the subtype. But considering Hastur’s portfolio, Artist makes a lot of sense as an unregarded subtype to build up. The Mark of Madness brings us new Artists and cards that boost the tribe, the same way The Sleeper Below boosted Cultists and Denizens of the Underworld did Criminals. Tru’nembra can be discounted by driving Artists insane, while Patron of the Arts grants them Toughness and skill.

Additionally, there are new incentives to win the terror struggle. Drawing the Sign accumulates success tokens when the opponent loses terror, and can be sacrificed with eight tokens to win a story flat out. The Hastur, He Who Is Not To Be Named, allows the controller to place a success token on a story every time they win terror there. And this Hastur brings an extra terror struggle to the party, to boot!

Intriguingly, the off-factions’ characters are hinted to be themed around entering play insane, and having an effect when they are restored. I hope further previews expand on this theme.

Cardboard! with Rich Sommer

Cardboard! with Rich Sommer art: a cartoon of Rich smiles out from the lid of a board game box.A new board game podcast premiered recently, called Cardboard! with Rich Sommer. Probably best known for playing Harry Crane on Mad Men, Rich is also a huge board game nerd. I’d heard this fact mentioned on various podcasts over the last couple years, but there wasn’t anything to follow up on. Now with Mad Men concluding, Rich has launched a podcast of his own, just to talk about board games.

The tone of Cardboard! is generally about introducing board games to newcomers. The show’s guests seem to be mostly friends who have played a game or two, or casual players, usually with a hint of celebrity around them. Rich usually tries to frame the discussion in terms of what newcomers to the hobby might want to try, and how to go about doing so. Given Cardboard!‘s position in the podosphere as a show on the pop culture-centric WolfPop network, that’s a sensible position.

Episode five, “Getting Our Hands Dirty,” bucks that trend with a full-on game nerd, Kevin Sussman, and game designer Mike Selinker. I especially dug this episode because Rich and Mike talk about the genesis of Betrayal at House on the Hill, a personal favorite of mine — and Rich’s, it turns out.

During that episode, the interesting point comes up a game that tries to inject theme purely through flavor text on cards and rule books fails. The mechanics of the game have to be part of creating the theme. The example comes up of Martin Wallace games: the rules of a rail tycoon game encourage ruthless exploitation, and so the players find themselves feeling like exploitative rail tycoons.

(By that token, I found myself wondering whether games like Arkham Horror and Eldritch Horror do a good job of implementing their theme. Given they usually feel like a struggle against impossible odds, I’ll say yes for now.)

Cardboard! is a fun, snappy listen. The segments are varied, well-timed, and Rich Sommer is an energetic, engaging host who keep one eye on “I love board games and want to talk about them all the time!” and the other on “this show needs to be entertaining for the non-hardcore nerds, too.”

Call of Cthulhu LCG: Revealing Locations

The Thousand Young box cover.There’s a new preview up for The Thousand Young, the next expansion for Call of Cthulhu: The Card Game. In addition to a new set of Shub-Niggurath characters to check out — Baron Samedi seems especially cool, and he’s an Avatar, for added fun with the new Nyarlathotep — we’ve got a peek at the running theme of the off-faction cards.

So far, in the faction boxes, there’s been a common mechanical element among those factions who aren’t the stars of the expansion. Seekers of Knowledge gave everyone a Prophecy. Denizens of the Underworld gave everyone a Tactic. For the Greater Good passed out story attachments.

Now, we seem to be getting a set of reveal-for-bonus Locations. Hastur’s Tremé, for example, lets you reveal the top card of your deck. If it’s a Lunatic character, choose a character to go insane, ignoring terror icons or Willpower. That’s pretty awesome, particularly because it can work on Ancient Ones, which is a pretty common exception in Call of Cthulhu.

The other Location on preview, the Order of the Silver Twilight’s Garden District, has a similar effect. If the top card of your deck is a Lodge character, you can return a number of Lodge characters to your hand equal to the cost of the revealed Lodge character in order to put that character into play. Useful for doubling up on “enters play” effects, like everyone’s favorite bouncer, Jeff, and leveraging cheaper characters to bring out a stronger one.