Tag: Review

The Harrowing of Doom

I have been provided with an advance copy of the new Marvel Untold novel The Harrowing of Doom by David Annadale, published by Aconyte Books, so here is the honest review I promised in exchange for the book.

So here is an important disclaimer which is always important to put out there first. I have a casual work contact with Asmodee to demonstrate board games for them in stores and at conventions. Asmodee being the parent company of Aconyte the publisher.

I am also friends with David on Facebook, but I suspect that’s more about him connecting with fans rather than being a big fan of mine!

I am going to try my best to not let that cloud my judgement in this review, but I accept that subconsciously it might.

What is Marvel

Look at this point I would bore you with a bit of background to the game/universe, but lets not, you all know the Marvel Universe, if you don’t have you been living under a rock!

The Story

This story focuses on Doctor Victor von Doom, the ruler of the Eastern European country of Latveria, and his quest to free his mothers soul from Hell.

He teams up with a hermit witch Maria von Helm, as they work to change the rules around Dooms yearly duel with a champion of Hell, so that he might fuse science and sorcery to free the soul of his beloved mother.

But as with all things, there are forces allied against him, in particular an old enemy from before his revolution.

So the story whilst being about Doom, isn’t Dooms story, whilst a lot of it is told from his point of view, you also get the points of view of an enemy who hates him more than any other, his head of security, a priest reluctantly drawn into his web, his archivist and a nurosurgeon.

It would be so easy for David to have just done a story about a cackling mad scientist super villain, but this isn’t that story, instead its a bit more nuanced, its more insightful, giving us a glimpse into Dooms determination to not only free his mothers soul, but to protect his people.

And that’s one aspect of Doom, which is very much out there, he cares for the people of Latveria, yes they are his tools, yes they live in fear of him, but he genuinely cares and wants to protect them, with his rulership even coming over as considerably more liberal than that of his predecessor with trans citizens being afforded equal rights.

Whilst these books do inhabit their own universe in the Marvel multiverse, I think this book, a bit like the previous Domino novel, offers a look at a character is a way the comics, simply don’t manage very easiy.

David has managed to connect me to Doom in a way, i didn’t think possible.

Now if you listen to Edge of Empire, you will know I am not the biggest fan of Davids writing style, but in this novel, he manages to take a huge leap forwards, perhaps its having an editor who knows how the get the best out of him, but its a much easier read than most of his Black Library work. His sentence structures has tended to be so short and sharp, but in this book they flow so much easier than they did in say Ruinstorm.

I know David is an established writer, but over the past three or so years, it feels like his writing has become so much better, I used to be a bit irritated if he got to write a story in a series I was enjoying, but now I look forward to them.

Conclusion

This book works really well, and you know what, one of its strongest points is that it doesn’t even bring in much of the larger Marvel universe, it focuses solely on Doom, with a few mentions of other stuff, I think Richard Reed is mentioned once, AIM gets a couple of mentions.

But this book stands on its own and really gets you into the character and actually gets you rooting for him, especially given that one of the Marvel Universes biggest villains stands for trans rights!

This felt like it could easily be adapted into a movie in the MCU, its a very strong story and very well written.

You can buy the eBook now, and the paperback is available in the US now and will be in the UK on 7th January.


The Fractured Void

I have been provided with an advance copy of the new Twilight Imperium book The Fractured Void by Tim Pratt, published by Aconyte Books, so here is the honest review I promised in exchange for the book.

So here is an important disclaimer which is always important to put out there first. I have a casual work contact with Asmodee to demonstrate board games for them in stores and at conventions. Asmodee being the parent company of Aconyte the publisher.

I am going to try my best to not let that cloud my judgement in this review, but I accept that subconsciously it might.

What is Twilight Imperium

Twilight Imperium is a much beloved strategy board game published by Fantasy Flight Games that’s currently in its 4th Edition.

First thing to know, it’s very long, my pal Drew, one of the owners of the amazing Meeple Perk, tells me it’s an 8 hour game as a minimum!

Secondly it’s an epic space opera, set in the power vacuum left behind by the decline and collapse of the Lazax Empire, as various races and factions vie for dominance and to become the new galactic superpower.

The Story

It’s a bit of an interesting one, clearly designed to introduce us in a gentle way to the lore of the game.

It focuses on the crew of the Temerious who are exiled to a backwater system where they patrol and occasionally help look for lost farm animals.

Lead by Captain Felix Duval they encounter a distres signal and end up rescuing a scientist named Thales, who is on the cusp of an astounding breakthrough that would change the balance of power in the galaxy.

Tasked by his commanders in the Mentak Coalition to assist Thales, they end up getting drawn into a cat and mouse game as they are pursued by black ops teams from two other galactic powers.

The book actually does a good job at introducing the setting, I have never played Twilight Imperium, despite it being right up my street, because Lindsay and Megan are unsure about it.

You get a lot of information and background, but it never feels like you get huge sections of exposition, but you do get the needed background. I can now after reading the book understand a lot about the lore of the game and the various factions in it.

The world building is second to none, it feels really well done and it’s an excellent primer.

But I do actually have some criticisms, firstly the books conclusion is kinda hurried, it’s feels too much like a set up for further books, you just know there is more to come, it heavily hinted at, and a big thing is kicked off, but not actually concluded.

I think I would have preferred a cleaner ending that wasn’t a setup for further adventures of Duval’s Devils.

Secondly, the characters for the most part, simply didn’t gel well with me. The heroes felt a little too cliche, we get it, they are raiders and little better than pirates. But it felt like that got pointed out at every opportunity.

The antagonists, well they again seemed forced, they as characters seemed to fit together quite well as an odd couple, but the escalation of their relationship felt a little forced at times.

But one character he did get right was Thales, an utterly detestable person, you just love to hate him and I tell you that you spend the whole book wanting him to get his comeuppance.

Tim does a great job with this character, he really gets you hating him and it really triggers an emotional response.

Conclusion

It was a fun space opera with a nice degree of humour and a good balance.

But I cannot state enough how rushed the conclusion was and how it really felt that little was actually resolved with the open left too open for me.

I want the story to be finished, which means I need to hope this sells enough to warrant a sequel, because it really needs a sequel to finish the story.

Duvals Devils did start to seem more interesting at the end as well, so I kinda want to see how they are developed.

Initially I was thinking of giving this 3 stars, but I ended up settling on 4. The book really makes you feel something, and that is hatred and anger towards Thales, and the writing is so good that when he gets his just desserts, it feels good.


The Last Ritual

I have been provided with an advance copy of the new Arkham Horror book The Last Ritual by S. A Sidor, published by Aconyte Books, so here is the honest review I promised in exchange for the book.

So here is an important disclaimer which is always important to put out there first. I have a casual work contact with Asmodee to demonstrate board games for them in stores and at conventions. Asmodee being the parent company of Aconyte the publisher.

I am going to try my best to not let that cloud my judgement in this review, but I accept that subconsciously it might.

What is Arkham Horror

Anyway that put to one side, let’s look at this book, by first looking at the game Arkham Horror which is a cooperative game, originally designed by Richard Launius, and is now in its third edition which was released in 2019.

It’s published by Fantasy Flight Games, a subsidiary of Asmodee, and is set in 1926 in the town of Arkham, Massachusetts. Each player takes on the role of an investigator, who are working to stop the Ancient Ones, eldritch horrors which lurk in the void beyond space and time.

It’s a 1-6 player game and you work together to gather clues and defeat the evil of the Ancient Ones and save the world.

As I said I haven’t actually played Arkham Horror but I do own its spin off Elder Sign the cooperative dice game.

The Story

It’s a 1920s novel as an aspiring artist in the town of Arkham as he tried to piece together the puzzle of several very odd occurrences along with his love interest a talented young writer.

Like the previous novel Wrath of N’kai, which I reviewed earlier this year, it has a very rich setting, and there are subtle crossovers as characters common to the setting get a mention.

But we run across bootleggers, odd job men, butlers, privileged rich kids and impoverished artists, as well as the main antagonist, a renowned Spanish surrealists who wishes to open the gate.

On Goodreads I saw an excellent comment by Taylor Hanson, this book is “Lovecraft meets The Great Gatsby”, and that is as good a term I can think of.

The story is told retrospectively as Alden, our protagonist recites the tale to a young reporter, so there is a lot of foreshadowing to a disaster that left him disfigured and scarred.

The book is much slower and quietier than Wrath oif N’kai, but its suitably unsettling, there is an almost blurring of the lines between the possible, and the impossible, between dreams and waking. The creeping dread of the story is very tangible and when finished with it after a session, I felt a discomfort in my mind.

Conclusion

Personally I really enjoyed the book, it was a creepy, yet enjoyable story which whilst grounded in the Cthulhu mythos, like the Wrath of N’kai did not delve into it too deeply, nor did it require me to have more than passing knowledge.

Normally, I don’t go for horror, and this one nicely doesn’t dwell too much on gore, but its absolutely there but mostly happens off screen.

The conclusion felt like it came too quickly, and I did find his efforts to find a missing person in the last couple of chapters, a little lacklustre considering what they meant to Alden.

I would recommend this book, its certainly an entertaining read and does get the heart pumping.


Wrath of N’Kai

After my review of Tales from The Crucible, Aconyte reached out to set me up with a new copy of Wrath if N’Kai by Josh Reynolds.

So here are some disclaimers which are always important to put out there first. I am a friend of Josh on Facebook, and whilst we aren’t beat buds, we do interact with each other and I consider him a class person, and I have very much enjoyed his work with Black Library.

Secondly I have a casual work contact with Asmodee to demonstrate board games for them in stores and at conventions. Asmodee being the parent company of Aconyte the publisher.

I am going to try my best to not let these things cloud my judgement in this review, but I accept that subconsciously it might.

So Arkham Horror is not a game I have actually played, I fancy it, but me and the Cthulhu mythos have never been quite on the same wavelength.

I have never read any H.P. Lovecraft books, my first exposure to them was at a small convention in London when I was about 12, it was actually a convention for Corps of Drums, not even speculative fiction.

Basically an older chap was reading a book and it lead into a discussion lead by a BAME person about the issues of racism in his work, and even the chap reading the book was pretty clear that there was some nasty racism in some of his work.

As I said I have never read any, that discussion put me off, but I have read stuff by other authors, never a novel, usually short stories and played games set in the mythos. I have so many Cthulhu expansions for games that one would think I am a huge fan.

I can play all of Munchkin Cthulhu, get all the references and jokes, but as I said never read a single Lovecraft story.

It’s a gap in my knowledge that I am actually going to try and fill, I was recently gifted an audiobook of the complete fiction of Lovecraft, so am considering giving that a listen, but I will admit the racism is something that I will be on edge about.

What is Arkham Horror

Anyway that put to one side, let’s look at this book, by first looking at the game Arkham Horror which is a cooperative game, originally designed by Richard Launius, and is now in its third edition which was released in 2019.

It’s published by Fantasy Flight Games, a subsidiary of Asmodee, and is set in 1926 in the town of Arkham, Massachusetts. Each player takes on the role of an investigator, who are working to stop the Ancient Ones, eldritch horrors which lurk in the void beyond space and time.

It’s a 1-6 player game and you work together to gather clues and defeat the evil of the Ancient Ones and save the world.

As I said I haven’t actually played Arkham Horror but I do own its spin off Elder Sign the cooperative dice game.

The Story

It’s a 1920 whodunit told mostly from the perspective of master thief Countess Alessandra Zorzi who arrives in the town of Arkham, hired by a mysterious cabal to steal a newly discovered mummy.

The eldritch prologue sets you up for some occult horror, but the book largely steered clear of that, which given that the protagonist is not that familiar with the intricacies of the occult makes sense.

The setting is deep and rich, with gangsters and bootleggers, all speaking with 1920s US slang. It’s a real atmospheric period piece that evokes the days of prohibition, with just a hint of eldritch terror and added tommy guns.

Alessandra herself is a very three dimensional character and extremely well developed beyond the trope of the aristocratic thief. We see her backstory teased out over the book, learning more about her as we go though, and as I said, she is more than just the trope.

Her driver Pepper was actually my favourite character in the story, they have their own secret, although this is revealed early on. They are full of spunk and as mentioned by a gangster they deal with, moxie.

It’s a really fast paced book, that I literally devoured over two sittings, one that got me 20% of the way in and the rest in an evening that kept me reading until 3am! I was just utterly drawn in by the story with its twists and turns.

As I said I haven’t played Arkham Horror, but I have played Elder Sign and I recognised lots of elements of that games story mechanics in this book.

And given my surface knowledge of Lovecrafts work, I did recognise a few little nods to those within the story that will please those who are more familiar.

There is a bit of a creep factor in there, and there were certainly bits that had my skin crawling just a little, but not so much to put me off. It’s very light in terms of horror, which makes it very accessible.

Conclusion

Personally I loved this book, it was a throughly enjoyable story which whilst grounded in the Cthulhu mythos, did not delve into it too deeply, nor did it require me to have more than passing knowledge.

In fact I think if a layperson was to pick up this book and read it, they would get on with it perfectly fine without knowing a thing about the mythos.

This book was great and for me it was a fantastic read. I particularly enjoyed a strong female protagonist who at no point needed any romantic entanglements, and the pulpy 1920s nature of the story was just delightful.

I really hope that the countess and Pepper return to Arkham for some more adventures, this is kind of hinted at, but please Josh, do it!


One Night Ultimate Werewolf Review

This is a version of Werewolf in which everything happens over a single night, if you are unfamiliar with Werewolf, then I guess I had better explain it!

Werewolf was originally called Mafia and was created by a Russian dude, Dmitry Davidoff in the late 1980s. In it people are assigned a role in secret and the game them works in two phases, the night phase in which people carry out their roles in secret, and a day phase in which people attempt to root out the werewolves in their midst.

In normal Werewolf, to win, the Villagers must rid the village of all evil doers, whilst the Werewolves must reach parity with the villagers.

There are lots of different roles which can change up how the game works, for example Tanners, whose win conditions is to be killed.

This version was originally designed as One Night Werewolf by Akihisa Okui and further developed by Ted Alspach and is published by Bézier Games.

The Jist

So in One Night Ultimate Werewolf, it strips it right down and does everything in one night phase and one day phase, with the villagers needing to kill a werewolf and the werewolves needing to kill a villager.

You are randomly given a card, which has 1 of 12 different roles on it, but what I am going to do here is tell you about the roles used for a standard 3 player starter game.

In this you will create a deck of 2 Werewolves, 1 Seer, 1 Robber, 1 Troublemaker and 1 Villager, you then hand a card out to each player, who looks at it, and then places it face down on the table. The remaining three cards are placed in the centre of the table.

Players then close their eyes, and an announcer reads out what happens, but you won’t need an extra player for that, as Bézier Games have developed an app which does it all for you.

The Werewolves will then wake up and look for each other, they then close their eyes and the Seer wakes up and can either look at a players card, or two of the centre cards, they then close their eyes.

The Robber then wakes up and can then exchange their role with another players role and view the card, they then close their eyes. At this point the Troublemaker wakes up, and then exchanges cards between two players.

Then everyone wakes up and you try and figure out between you, who are the Werewolves and therefore who should die.

There are other roles, for example the Drunk who wakes up and swaps their card for one of the centre cards, but doesn’t look at their new role.

You have five minutes to debate between yourselves who are the Werewolves and who must die, after which you all point at the player you wish to kill after a countdown.

Components

In the box you get 16 cards for the various roles, plus 16 chits for each role along with a rule book.

The cards and chits are punchboard as opposed to simple game cards, and so are very durable, we have had our copy since not long after publication five years ago, and it’s seen a lot of play, sure now some of the cards are showing a little wear and tear, but they still hold up pretty well.

The App obviously isn’t in the box, but I can’t mention components without talking about it, it’s great and means that your group doesn’t need an extra person to be the announcer which means everyone can play, and that is brilliant. You load it up, select what roles you are using and set it away, simple but brilliant.

And all of this fits in a super small box so it’s highly portable.

Look

The art is really fun, it’s not as serious as other Werewolf games and is in a cartoon style by Gus Batt, great artwork and suits the more simplistic, fun version of Werewolf this is.

What’s Good

I love this game, it’s a real favourite of mine, I love a good hidden identity game and this really ticks a lot of boxes for me.

It really gets your heart beating and the way you have to navigate the social dynamics of whatever group you are with adds a new twist to every game.

It’s wonderful to see a group think they have secured victory, only to have it snatched away from them by a sneaky werewolf who convinced them that they were an innocent villager.

What’s Bad

Werewolf had a lot of different roles for it, if you put a gun to my head and made me say something bad about this game, it would be that in order to get a bigger Werewolf experience, you need to add expansions, I mean I personally think Daybreak is an essential.

Final Score

I love this game, it’s one I can pull out again and again and again.

I love to play a full game of Werewolf, but this comes pretty close to that.

I give this game a solid 7.5 out of 10


I will not lie I have looked at other reviews to get an idea of how to write this, I am no pro, but there is a possibility that I may have been influenced by reading them and some stuff may have filtered through to this review.

If you do spot anything that could be seen as heavily influenced by what someone else has said, let me know and I will be sure to credit and link them.

Game Details
NameOne Night Ultimate Werewolf (2014)
Accessibility ReportMeeple Like Us
ComplexityLight [1.39]
BGG Rank [User Rating]404 [7.14]
Player Count (recommended)3-10 (4-10)
Designer(s)Ted Alspach and Akihisa Okui
Artists(s)Gus Batts
Publisher(s)Bézier Games, Lacerta, Playfun Games, Popcorn Games, Ravensburger, Reflexshop, Siam Board Games, UBO CnC, Viravi Edicions and White Goblin Games
Mechanism(s)Hidden Roles, Role Playing, Roles with Asymmetric Information, Traitor Game, Variable Player Powers and Voting

Kill Team

img_8384After a summer filled with releases for Age of Signar it’s nice to get back to 40k, and following Death Masque we get the return of the popular Kill Team game.

My first forays in the 40k universe were with games of Necromunda, I had a force of Enforcers lead by the corrupt Sargent Hill who liked to go into combat with a shield and power maul. The thing I liked about the game was that it was easy to start and quick to get on the table fully painted (though in my case quite poorly) and I enjoyed some awesome games with my Enforcers, small games in which every figure counted.
Kill Team is kind of like that in that you get a small squad of 200pts, which allows you to buy, 0-2 Troops, 0-1 Elites, 0-1 Fast Attack. There are a few more selection rules, namely that you need at least four infantry models, nothing with more than 3 wounds or hull points, no vehicles with a combined AV of 33, no flyers and no 2+ saves.
img_8385With a force selected using this rules, you then can play as a small band of troops doing quite cool cinematic missions lead by your heroic leader. This is a fast easy way to try 40k and may be a cool way to try out a new faction without investing a huge ton of money on a whole army only to find out you dislike it.
The rules have been released on Black Library, fully updated for 7th edition for the low price of £6.99 as an ePub, or if you bought the 6th edition version, it’s a free update. For those on iOS there is also an enhanced version for £7.99.
img_8387The box set I am reviewing comes with these rules in a handy booklet, and you get a an excellent two player set which also includes a full copy of the 40k rules with a Raven Guard cover, along with a set of Space Marines Tactical Squad and a set of Tau Fire Warriors, and you get all of that for £40. And that is excellent value, its about the price of a decent board game these days and is perfect for starting out with 40k and you don’t fancy the Dark Angels or Chaos Space Marines offered in the Dark Vengeance box. The only things you don’t get are dice or templates, but in fairness these are easily acquired elsewhere.
So getting back to the game, when you build your army there is one thing you should bear in mind, and that is that when you add dudes to your team, although they may act as individuals in the game, you still buy them as a unit, so if you only want say 4 Space Marines, you still pay the price for 5 of them, so mixing and matching units can get quite hard.
img_8388The model with the highest leadership becomes your team leader and gets what is in effect a mini Warlord trait, which is chosen exactly the same way, by rolling a D6. You can then nominate three non-vehicle models to be specialists, and you can pick from one of five categories, Combat (melee orientated), Weapon (shooting orientated), Dirty Fighter (dirty tricks), Indomitable (making the model a bit special), or Guerrilla (movement orientated). When you pick your specialist you then get to given them a special rule from the category, for example in the Raven Guard kill team data sheet included in the rule book, a model armed with a Missile Launcher, is an Indomitable Specialist and gets the Relentless Special Rule, meaning he can fire that Missile Launcher on the move. Now you only get one of each speciality so no giving yourself multiple versions of the same specialist.
The book also contains six special Kill Team missions which are played on a 4’x4′ board. The missions do have slightly different rules to standard games, for example, transports can carry multiple units, because each model is a unit all of its own. And some codexs get a tweak too, for example, Chaos Daemons don’t use the Warp Storm or Daemonic Instability rules, but they do get fearless instead.
img_8389There is a nice mix of mission in there, objective missions, assassination missions, get into your opponents deployment zone, but they are all quite fun and short in length, so you can easily play a couple of games in a single session.
The book then looks at what the next steps in Kill Team could be, for example it suggests tournaments, linked games, and multiplayer games. So you can see Kill Team offers plenty of scope beyond whats in the box.
Finally the book contains Data Sheets fro two pre-built Kill Teams built from the kits in the box, one a Raven Guard squad, and the other, a team of Tau Fire Warriors complete with Drones. This is a cool template to use, but does somewhat take away from the fun of building your own Kill Team, but for people new to 40k, they are perfect.
So whats my final opinion on Kill Team, well its good, its very good, its an excellent kitchen table/beer and pretzels wargame, its dirty and quick to play. But, and its a big but, like with all Games Workshop wargames, it all depends on the players, in the hands of most of the players I know, it will be fine and fun, but in the hands of the WAAC players, it will be broken very easily,  for example, taking an Eldar Hornet, which is perfectly acceptable for use in Kill Team.#
Its a great game, just be wary of who you play with!

8/10

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