Prime Wardens Are Go

A collage of the achievement screens for unlocking the five Prime Warden variants in Sentinels of the Multiverse.Thanks to the industrious players over on the Sentinels of the Multiverse video game forum, the unlock conditions for the Prime Warden identities were all figured out over the last couple weeks. After an extended hiatus from the digital version of Sentinels — Steam had me down as last playing in September — I decided to see how many of the Prime Wardens I could unlock over the weekend. I have a certain affection for this team, because they were the first set of promo cards that I got directly on my own, as part of preordering Wrath of the Cosmos. I’ve never known how to use them because I don’t get to play in reality as often as I might like, but I feel an attachment to the team as the promo cards that I didn’t proxy.

Argent Adept was, weirdly, the trickiest for me to unlock. I had a couple false starts as I bounced among devices and had to ensure multiple times that I had met both halves of the unlock. As the Adept is well-suited to making this happen on his own, the second half came down to remembering whether I had indeed played all the instruments. Captain Cosmic’s Dynamic Siphons are always helpful to the Adept using powers off-turn.

Captain Cosmic and Tempest unlocked in the same session in Dok’Thorath. Prime Warden Argent Adept and America’s Greatest Legacy put their powers towards helping Cosmic dig through his deck for Energy Bracers, and have the cards to pay for redirecting damage from Abject Refugees. The Visionary came along to sift the environment for the refugees themselves and ablate the less ignorable cards.

By the time Captain Cosmic’s variant was unlocked, we were well into the game and Tempest had inadvertently set up most of what he needed for his own unlock. Adept and Legacy assisted in fishing out the remainder of his unlock setup and the game ended with Tempest administering the coup de grace on Argent Adept’s turn.

Fanatic versus Apostate went quietly. Argent Adept and America’s Greatest Legacy led the team again, to help Fanatic dig for cards, since the Redeemer variant doesn’t start with a damaging ability. Dark Visionary minded the top of Apostate’s deck, getting the demons in play that Fanatic needed to clean up for her unlock condition.

For Haka, I played cautiously, because I don’t relish deliberately incapacitating heroes. Once Savage Mana was out, I made sure all of Ambuscade’s devices were stashed there before eliminating the other heroes. Captain Cosmic and the Wraith’s big finishing moves took out two heroes in one turn, and then Haka was able to polish off the rest, before restoring himself to full health and then closing out the game with his own big finisher to clean Ambuscade’s 1 HP clock.

We Have to Betray Deeper

If you care about spoilers for Betrayal at House on the Hill scenarios and its expansion, Widow’s Walk, gloss over the photo below and really the whole post.

Components of a successfully completed Betrayal at House on the Hill scenario and a smartphone timer reading 29:12.

Photo courtesy Chris Griffin.

In this particular scenario, “The Manor of Your Demise,” the haunt consists of resetting the house and playing a sub-game in which the explorers search for the original triggering omen, the Box, with a 30 minute time limit. If they trigger a haunt within the sub-game before finding the Box, they start a new game with a 15 minute time limit. And so on, and so on.

We lucked out and finished the scenario after 48 seconds, thanks to Box being on top of the omen deck. It was pure, unadulterated luck, as two separate people shuffled the omen deck, but it was a pretty cool coincidence — especially since one of the players had announced he had a hard out to go make a pizza.

One thing I’m curious about is the number of timers that may be at play if multiple sub-games are initiated during the course of the scenario. The text in the Survivor’s Guide refers to starting “a timer” (emphasis mine) and never refers to stopping a timer, which say to me that the 30 minute timer keeps running even when the 15 minute game begins, and both the 30 and 15 minute timers keep running if a 7.5 minute game is initiated, and so on, and so on.

If that’s the case — and one of my fellow players argued that multiple timers didn’t make a whole lot of sense, but I’m sticking with the distinction between a timer and the timer — then does the victory condition of finding the Box omen end the haunt the explorers are currently experiencing, or the entire series of nested haunts? The wording refers to “this new game,” which again suggests to me that for every new sub-game begun, it has be to resolved before the explorers get kicked out to try to resolve the prior sub-game.

But I may be overthinking things.

Carnage Munchkin

This past weekend, I spent some time weeding my game library. One of the treasures I stumbled across was this pair of cards from Munchkin Carnage, a fan-made version of Munchkin made by longtime friend of Carnage, Tom Mechler, which he ran at Carnage on the Mountain in 2013, the convention’s first year at the Killington ski resort. The hook was that players would encounter convention staff and other Carnage references as monsters, treasures and so forth in the course of the game. In my case, I got recognition as an role-playing game field marshal for Carnage — though I’m pretty sure that photo is of me running a Hellboy scenario at Northeast Wars — and as the producer of Carnagecast.

In retrospect, making Podcaster with a live mic a level one monster is rather poetic. Carnagecast never got the traction and audience engagement that I hoped for. It was a great learning experience, though, especially with learning to recognize your audience’s behaviors and interests.

Arkham Horror LCG: The Gathering

Wendy and Roland's marker cards cluster around the Attic location, teeming with clue tokens.

Wendy and her friend Roland explore the attic of the nightmarish Escher monstrosity her home has become.

At the risk of excess melodrama, the Arkham Horror card game has been a bit of a light at the end of the tunnel for me. Fall’s traditionally a busy time of year for me, with both Carnage in the offing and my professional commitments. Once it was pretty clear that the game would be available November 10th, I wanted to make a point to get the first game in as soon as possible. Usually, I get a game and it takes two or more months to get some people together to play it, especially in November as we’re all wiped from Carnage and the holidays are ramping up. So I was pretty happy that my friend Tom was free last night and interested enough to give the game a try. Three and a half hours from purchase to play is probably a new record for me.

The first session is always a learning experience. Fantasy Flight’s new model of a short rulebook and a longer, encyclopedia-style volume of rules concepts worked pretty well. The short Learn to Play rulebook basically walks you through setting up and playing the introductory scenario. I noticed what seemed to be some discrepancies in card names and numbers when assembling the encounter deck, so I think that may have affected this particular session, since not every ghoul made it into the encounter deck.

Like Netrunner, Arkham has an action economy. Each investigator can do three things on their turn, selected from a list of choices, including things like draw a card, gain a resource, investigate a location and so on. Figuring out the efficiencies of the game — when and how is it best to gain resources, for instance — is going to be one of the first steps to being a better player.

In this first session, Tom and I took the approach of pushing through the investigators’ act cards as quickly as we could, reasoning that the advancement of the agenda would only make ours lives more difficult. In retrospect and without divulging spoilers, that may not have been the best choice, as it meant we didn’t spend time exploring every location or drawing useful cards from our decks.

On first blush, I like the way the game plays. It has an elegance that comes from how both Netrunner and Eldritch Horror mapped mechanics to their respective themes. It’s very role-playing game-like, with unexpected developments built into a scenario and not necessarily loss conditions, but “worst result” situations.

I’m a little concerned that there’s not a lot of meaningful replay value in an individual scenario, unless one enjoys taking every possible character configuration — now Wendy armed for combat, and then Roland as a hyper-investigator, and how about Daisy with guns! — through the story line, which reminds me an awful lot of grinding characters through certain entries in the Final Fantasy console franchise, or playing against progressively higher difficulty settings. The flip side of that is Fantasy Flight has a steady stream of expansion products planned that I may never have time or inclination to go back to the core box scenarios, unless I’m teaching the game to newcomers.

Netrunner certainly taught me that one new product every month will challenge my ability to squeeze in both modifying decks to take advantage of new investigator cards and carving out times with friends to play through the new scenarios. Deckbuilding in Arkham is less onerous than Netrunner, happily, as it’s a single 30 card deck and players don’t develop a new list for league night every week.

And I’m curious to see how deckbuilding works out over the course of a campaign. If people play the scenarios as they’re released, rather than waiting until the full cycle’s worth of cards are available, how many of them are going to utilize the rules for paying to swap cards in and out?