Thursday, 20 June 2013

House of Cards: Smash Up

For the first one of these reviews I thought I’d look at a game new to my circle of gamers, and one that’s quite a new release.
Smash Up is a game that allows you to take some of the greatest factions from fiction and have them battle against each other. The core set comes with eight factions:
Each of which has 20 cards in a deck; players choose two of these decks and shuffle them together to make their combined faction, who are now ready for battle. This makes for some great combinations; Pirate Wizards, Zombie Ninja’s, you get the idea.

Each faction has its own distinct flavour: Zombies can come back from the discard pile. Wizards draw more cards than the other races.
Ninjas strike when you least expect.
Robots bring more robots to the fight.
Tricksters steal and disrupt.
Dinosaurs are heavy hitters.
Aliens mess with other people stuff.
Pirates roam about the board.

This means that while choosing your faction for its awesome theme there is also benefit to choosing your faction for complimentary rules.
Citizen Williams is one of our founding members and a passionate board game player, he's been writing a Blog (A Murder of Ravens) for 3 years now, focusing on Warhammer 40,000 and Malifaux. 
Main Systems:

Malifaux: Arcanists, Guild



Faction decks contain two types of cards, minions and actions.
Minions are your troops and are how you can take over locations and score, most have an extra ability linked with their faction theme.
Action cards re usually one shots or continuous affects you can play on minions’ or location cards to change their effect, give them a new effect or sometimes just plain destroy them.
In addition to the 8 faction decks, Smash Up also contains sixteen "base" cards bases form the board Smash Up is played on and are the locations your new forces are fighting over.

Each base has a score in the top left corner called a breaking point. This is how much power (from minions) it can take before it is destroyed. Upon its destruction a base generates points, the highest number to the player with the most power, second for second and so on.
Some bases also have special effects which are written on the card most of these are what to do with minions placed there, or what happens to minions once the bases i destroyed. Upon a bases destruction most of the time all minions on that bases are discarded.

The game itself is very simple to play. Once they have chosen their two factions, players draw a number of base cards equal to the number of players plus one. So for a four person game you deal out five bases.
Players then take their turns. On their turn, a player may play one minion and one action in any order they wish. Some minions or actions allow you to play more cards which is allowed as cards text always trumps the rulebook. A player then checks to see if any of the bases are at breaking point, if so score that base, if not the player draws two cards and play passes round.

The first player to reach 15 victory points is the winner. It couldn’t be simpler. The more in depth rules are on the cards themselves but everything is clearly explains and just in case the rulebook comes with a clarification of each key word and which one takes precedence in a tie.
In addition to the core eight factions the Smash Up expansion; Awesome Level 9000” adds four more.

Bear Cavalry who hit hard and chase you down.
Steampunks who build on bases to keep them strong.
Killer plants which grow the longer they’re alive.
Ghosts who get stronger the fewer cards you have.

The small box expansion also comes with new look base cards that are easier to read, and eight additional bases, themed to the four new races.

Also in the expansion is a sheet of victory point tokens which helps immeasurably with scoring as previously players had to rely on pen and paper.
Over all I love the simplicity of the game, its fast to set up and play but gives you a feeling of a more complex card game like MTG. The combination of the 8 (12) factions is vast especially if you have multiple copies of the decks. There are more expansions planned with a Cthulhu themed set hitting shelves in September.

So my final rating:

Fun - 8
Fast pace and frantic the whole game can be over in 25 minutes or a couple of hours staying exciting most of the time. Longer games do drag on a little but hopefully new factions will fix the late game.

Ease of learning – 7
This score would be higher but it takes new player a while reading their hand each turn.

Portability – 7
Both the core game and expansion fit in the original box with slots to spare still, and the box its self would easily fit in most bags or even the front pocket of a miniatures case.

Mechanics – 9
A delightful take on deck building I keep coming up with new ways to use factions together and how to cover some weaknesses in heavy factions like the dinosaurs with the wizards high card drawing, while not as in depth as CCG’s or LCG’s it got great scope.

Cost - 7
Coming in at around the £20 mark is a little pricey for a card game, but its well made and very robust, so it can surviv without sleeving. The expansion is pricey at around £12 but isn't necessary to play. As a cheaper option the expansion pack also works as a two player version of the game.

Total: 38/50

I hope you enjoyed this article, feel free to leave any questions or comments below or contact me at

House of Cards - Introduction

For years I've loved card games. Even as a child every Christmas or late evening on holiday we'd always rack out a pack of playing cards and go through all the old family games, a tradition that continues to this day, but one I was not content with.

In my early teenager years a close friend and I began to embrace nerd culture to its fullest. From D & D to high fantasy novels and miniatures games we got into it all, but most of all we played Magic: the Gathering.

I fell in love with magic for many reasons. Its look, the mechanics of playing and the ease of having a deck tucked away in a rucksack or even my pocket so gaming was always possible. Most of all though I liked deck building. Deck building is one of my favourite pasts times to this day. I love looking at the cards for a system and seeing how they synergies and which cards I need to pull the power cards I wanr, it gives me shivers just thinking about it

Magic sadly dropped in interest for me mostly because I got to playing at a high level where many player spends hundreds of pounds (dollars, etc.) on their decks so that eventually you're beaten by a wallet not a player.
This left me looking for new card games and over the years I've found more than a few. This series, which will run on both "A Murder of Ravens" and the Hobbynomicon will look at some of these card games, from LCG's, to deck building games and beyond we'll look into the world of cards.

The games will be rated on
Ease of learning
and Mechanics.

The first one of these will be up by the weekend.

I'd love some feedback on games you'd like me to feature or any you want to know more about.
Email:, or contact me through the Hobbynomicon's "House of Cards" forum thread.. .

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Winter is Coming - Malifaux 2E Battle Report

So recently Gmort (of Gmort's Chaotica) and I have been play testing the beta rules for Malifaux 2.0. We've had about four games and I've had a couple of others to try and test the changes in the rules and how the new rules set holds up.

During our most recent game I decided to take notes in the hope of writing a battle report, show casing not just the new rules but also Rasputina. Before I begin that however lets have a look at the changes M2E has made from Malifaux 1.5.

1) There are now only two types of duel;
Simple duels which target your own models (usually for buff spells)
Opposed duels where one player attacks or targets an opposing model, where one player can resist the other players duel.

2) Most model can buy upgrade cards.
In some cases these grant a model an ability it previously had in 1.5 or a last effect that alters how that model plays in the game. These upgrades can change between games an can give models a totally different feel, taking some from combat monsters and turning them into support characters or vice versa and many others in between.

3) Setting up and playing a game has become much more simple with players flipping on small concise charts for strategies and schemes (though players are still free to choose, if they so desire).

Some other changes will be covered in the battle report, but I intend to do a more encompassing review of the system when we have the final rules set.

But on to the main focus of the article, the battle report.

We chose to play a 35 soul stone game which is the starting box for Rasputina (Raspy, Wendigo, Ice Golem and three Ice Gamin) and Seamus (Seamus, The Copy Cat Killer, Madam Sybelle and three Rotten Belles.) and leaving enough points for some upgrades. This is a smaller game by 2.0 standards and we both took a larger than average cache of soul stones into the game so we could test the new effects.

Rasputina Crew - Citizen Williams

Rasputina (Cache of 3) - 0
Wendigo - 3
Ice Golem - 10
Ice Gamin - 4
Ice Gamin - 4
Ice Gamin - 4
Total - 25 SS

Rasputina Upgrades:
Child of December (1) - Grants Rasputina Bear Skin armour and gives her the (0) ability Shatter.
Decembers Pawn (2) - This allows Rasputina to treat the Black Joker as a second Red Joker.

Cold Nights (1) - Gives Rasputina the (1) action spell Ice Pillars.

Ice Golem Upgrades:
Sub Zero (1) - Grants all models with 'Frozen Heart' within 8" the Df trigger sub zero which ends an attacking models activation once the model with 'Frozen Heart' takes damage.

This puts my crew at 30 SS and gives me a maximum cache of 7 Soul Stones in the game.

Seamus Crew - Gmort

Seamus (Cache of 3)
Copy Cat Killer - 3
Madam Sybelle - 8
Rotten Belle - 5
Rotten Belle - 5
Rotten Belle - 5
Total - 26 SS

Seamus Upgrades:
Sinister Reputation (1) - Grants Seamus the (1) action live for pain and gives opposing models within 6" -2 Wp.
Mad Haberdasher (2) - Allows Seamus to prevent damage using his hat.
Not Too Banged Up (1) - Gives +2Wk to models effected by a Belle's 'Lure' spell.

Sybelle Upgrades:
Bleeding Tongue (1) - Gives Sybelles combat attack two triggers, one to force a model to do an action and one that can instantly kill an enemy model.

Picture by Gmort

This Put Gmort on 31 SS and gave him a cache of 7 Soul Stones also.

Saturday, 1 June 2013

Winter is Coming - Part 1

So we've know Malifaux 2.0 has been on the horizon for a while now. Wyrd told us that the masters and models from the core 1.5 book would be redone first and we'd get the rules on the first of June.

Well they folks at Wyrd came up good. Malifaux 2.0 looks like a solid beta, there's a few rules I'd like to test but I'll come to those in later articles as I begin to test. Allow me first to tell you a tale.

I was becoming  little disillusioned with Malifaux due to having to teach so many games and not being able to use my master (Colette) in those games as people got confused. I was on the verge of ditching the system entirely then came the UK games expo. I was scheduled to run a tournament and at the 11th hour had a  player pull out. This forced me to bring a crew to fill in the gap I grabbed the first models I could find which were small Kaeris and Rasputina crews. I went to the expo details here, and had a blast at the tourney. I fell back in love with Malifaux and began a new romance with an ice queen.

Colette is still my favourite master in both play style and look, but Rasputina has a certain power and glass cannon effect that was really fun, meaning I had to play defencive yet still go for kills until my usual crew. This got me thinking about 2.0 and how silly I was for liking a new master before the new edition was out. Fortunately for me unlike Colette Rasputina is included in the new beta rules. Over the next few weeks and month I'm going to be looking at Raspy's current rules, how she plays now and how 2.0 is changing this.

They'll be cameos from some of the guys over at the Hobbynomicon as well as a few other local bloggers as I'd like to be able to cover more masters.

We'll start next week with a look at Raspy's strengths and hopefully a look at Malifaux 2.0 with A.D.

Monday, 22 April 2013

On the Paint Station - Cygnar

So with projects over at the Hobbynomicon taking up a lot of my time I figured I'd come back to spiritual home and give an update on a project I'm currently involved in.

Lots of the guys and gals at my FLGS (friendly local gaming store) have huge Warmachine collections however much of it was unpainted. So the big 5 player have all been challenged to paint 300 points by Christmas. Now as my on a budget articles may suggest, I don't have the most money in the world so a lesser group of us have taken up a much lesser baton to paint 100 points by X-mas.

I thought today I'd talk you through the first 50 point list I've made to complete my first half of the challenge.
I had no interest in Warmachine for years until a friend of mine asked if I wanted to play in the Iron Kingdoms RPG. I said yes and fell in love with the world, particularly one unit, gunmages.

In essence these guys are pistol wielding light troops who channel magic into their bullets. The game contains all sorts of them, so I set about trying to fit as many as possible into a list. My 50 point Caine list is the end result.

 So as you can see my paint station is truly packed at present, however this is still ten points short as my gunmages on horse have not arrived yet.

First up lets take a look at my 'jacks.

So having played Warmachine for a while now I became bored with hard hitting melee 'jacks so took my whole force ranged. (I apologise but the red rings did not come out well). The first jack is Sentinel, this guy has a mini gun and shield and is mostly used to keep my caster alive, he's useful and cheap, I just wish he had a nicer head.

My other two 'jacks are heavies, the twin mini gunned Cyclone. These sit on my flanks and drop templates of death in my opponents path until I need to take down a target.

That's the 'jacks which are mostly in my force for power, If i could field none and still be effective I'd be very happy to but, its not viable from what I've seen of the game. But on to my favourites.

The two units on the right of your picture are my gunmages. I opted for one Cygnar colour scheme and one Llael, as I wanted some variation and love the Llaelese fluff. These are the last units I have to finish, as it seems Malifaux has made me lazy when it comes to mass infantry,
There is also a gunmage solo on the left but I'll talk more about him in a moment. 

In addition to my vanilla solo I also Have Taryn Di La Rivossi, a Llaelesian gunmage who's background and art work I just love. The model however isn't the nicest but I'm looking for options for a conversion.

Another named unit and my favourite model in Warmachine (even if they are a little out of scale) are the Black 13th. Cygnar's special Op's team and my tabletop tool kit they have option for every situation and I literally never play Warmachine without them.

Finally we come to my Caster.

My caster is Cygnar's only gunmage caster, who I field with a tiny goblin friend (Reinholdt) and the two together are pretty powerful especially on feat turn.

So that's my 50 points at present I still need to finish the gunmages and the new Blazers (gunmages on horses) So I'll put some pictures up of the finished 50 points in the next couple of weeks.

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Games for Kids - Dixit

Over the recent Easter holidays I became a third parent to my two sisters and spent almost every day with them, which fortunately meant a lot of time playing games.  However after two weeks of games I ran out of our staples and had to find some new game for the girls to try.
There are many games I own that are simply not suitable for children either in theme or just length of time needed to play. With this in mind I turned to the games my friends and I play as party games, and that meant one game was my first candidate; Dixit.

Dixit is unlike any game I’ve played, and is almost universally popular with every one I’ve played it with.  In Dixit players are dealt hands of cards, these cards contain ambiguous pictures that cover many fields and a visually amazing to look at, One player (the Dixer) then chooses a word, phrases, quote or noise to describe one of their cards, usually something ambiguous like “Hope” the other players then choose one of their own cards that fits the Dixer’s description and all are laid face up on the table; players then vote as to which is the Dixer’s card. The finesse in Dixit comes in choosing a quote not everyone will get (as then you get no points) but that some will (and no guesses also means no points).
The contents of Dixit

It’s a great games especially with close friends as the quotes get more obscure and difficult to guess, my only fear though, would this translate to children playing?

We set up ther game and I wnet first, I had a few cards with musical instruments and notes on so said music as my Dix. My sisters found cards that kind of fit and that round went ok. The difficultly arose on their turns when they would just describe the card in too much detail so you knew which card it was in an instant. My older sister broke this habit after a while but my younger sister never quite got the descriptive element.

They both enjoyed Dixit but seemed more frustrated by it than I had expected< i'd say a definate for older children but younger ones may get a little confused. Next time, a game by the same compnay as Dixit, Fabula.

Monday, 1 April 2013

Malifaux on a Budget - Plastic Crews Part II

So last time we looked at two of the new plastic gangs and they came out as the cheapest crews I’ve looked at so far. Today we’re seeing if the final two Plastic crews can match the challenge.

We begin with the Guild’s new addition; The Relic Hunters.

Relic Hunters Box Set

The Box
Price - £24.50
SS - 23
Lucas McCabe is a very interesting master. He is not only Malifaux’s first mounted master (there are the horsemen and avatar Leviticus too) but his gang can and must choose some unique items before the game begins, but we’ll come to those shortly.
As with the other plastic crews, the box contains;
·         A master (McCabe mounted and un-mounted),
·         His totem (Luna, the faithful hound),
·         A based support model (Sidir Alchibal)
·         Three in theme minions (The wastrels).

The crew is primarily a mid-range crew, focusing on paralysing and slowing opponents to allow you to out-manoeuvre them. The crew suffers from relatively low defence, so will rely on these tricks to keep them safe as well as taking objectives. The unique point about McCabe and his fellow is the relics they find. McCabe himself has a choice of six artefacts he can purchase with his soulstone cache before the game begins. He must choose at least two of the items (which range from giving him paired weapons to armour 2) the cheapest pairing costs two soulstones out of the six available to him but you are free to buy more.  The wastrels also have access to four lesser artefacts McCabe has allowed them, and must choose a different one each before the encounter begins.

There are a couple of nice options for expanding McCabe’s crew, as this is Malifaux on a Budget I’m going with the cheapest as this box set takes the crew up to the 35SS we’re looking for.

Guild Riflemen (3 pack)

Price - £12.50
SS- 4 each
Guild Riflemen are the cheapest way of adding some serious range to any guild crew but with McCabe able to stop opponents in their tracks it allows the rifles more turns to whittle down those wounds. With hunter (able to ignore cover) , a (0) action range increase, a (0) action charge reaction and the ability to the fire 9 shots when activated together they really will ruin your opponents day should they be foolish enough to get within 12 inches.

Total crew cost - £ 37

The 35SS crew has a fast moving element as McCabe takes a few wastrels to the front with him leaving a solid block of range to offer some covering fire, choose your equipment to match your opponent: if you see Taelor’s hammer, don’t take the armour. See Lucius? Take the paired sabre. This crew will work for you in pretty much any mission with just a little forethought. 

The final box set of Wyrd's new plastic range is The Master's of the Path.

Masters of the Path Box Set

The Box
Price - £21.50
SS - 19

Yan Lo is another unique master, but this is all part of the fun. Unlike the other Ressurectionists Yan Lo deals in relics not the mindless creations of the other masters. Instead Yan Lo works with ancestor models, boosting them and using their abilities once they die to improve his damage and increase his abilities. In addition to this he can collect “Chi” points to spend on oaths of magic that change how he and his crew work, one path makes him faster, one tougher and one a bit of a combat monster. You can choose to follow one, some or all of these paths as long as you gain enough “chi”.

Not really a front line master his crew box allows him to step back from the front line. Yan Lo’s totem is a great model for making ancestor models faster and can collect relics dropped by ancestors for Yan Lo.  Chiaki is the utility model included the box and is Yan Lo’s presence at the front of the battle, allowing him to leach “chi” points through her as she debuffs and pushes the enemy just where you want them.
Yan Lo’s minions are three of my favourite models, the Ashigaru look stunning and make a great defensive line. Able to form a phalanx of spears that attacks an model foolish enough to get close they are a reliable and survivable way of protecting Yan Lo and any ancestor you need to keep intact. The box is a little soul stone light compared to many of the plastic boxes but they are full of character and certainly pack a punch. 

 Our first addition is a BIG one, literally...

Izamu - The Armor

 Price - £10.50
SS - 10

A combat monster Izamu deal master level damage with every strike. I call him Justice light as he has many of the same abilities as Lady Justice, he can riposte enemy attacks, cancel enemies triggers, get a positive flip to damage and tops it off with melee expert. He is a bit of a point sink at 10SS but if he dies Yan Lo can summon him back.   

Our last addition helps with "chi" and even in death can assist you.
Onryo (2 pack)

 Price - £10
SS - 5 each

Onryo are usually seen with Kirai but fit with Yan Lo well, their ability to slow an opponent (for the game) when they die is a great bonus and their death can fuel your “chi”. In addition to this they damage models that strike them, and have a pretty high damage output. Unfortunately we’re only using one in the list but it does allow you to push the crew to 40SS by adding the other.
Total - £41

The crew does its job well, allowing Yan Lo to advance protected and sends in the hard hitters to finish off the enemy until Yan Lo is ready to be unleashed, I'd like to have included more of the ancestors models but they aren't out yet and come at a very high soulstone cost. If able you should look into Toshiro the Daimyo and more Ashigaru. I will reassess this list once they're released. 

Next time we'll be re examining a few crews I've looked at before to include newer models and advancing some of the earlier crews i worked out to take them up to 35SS.