Board Game

This Is Elder Signs: Gates Of Arkham Expansion

When it was first released, Elder Sign was called “Arkham Light” by both fans and critics.  The comparison was a loose one then, made on assumptions with the mechanics by those not having yet played the game given it and Arkham Horror are actually quite different in both gameplay and setting with the only real overlap being the protagonists and antagonists of Lovecraft’s universe.  Elder Sign, as discussed more in my review here is a dice-rolling game which takes place in Arkham’s museum where you – the Investigator(s) – try to keep an Ancient One from splitting the fabric of our reality by collecting a number of elder sign tokens from completing adventures and tasks.  Similarly in Arkham Horror (and now Eldritch Horror), as an Investigator you race through the streets of Arkham closing Gates, the manifestations of that crumbling reality, traversing wild Other Worlds, and locking the Ancient One away for good.  Arkham is quite a bit grander in scope, though Elder Sign captures the feel of the race and dread quite well as you battle monsters, collect resources, and step from the museum onto the Plateau of Leng or dreaded R’lyeh.  Elder Signs’ first expansion Unseen Forces added much to the base game through adventures, new items, new Investigators and Ancient Ones, and the largest change to date at the time, the Blessed and Cursed die.  Even with these additions, the experience was largely more of the same.  Not that that same was bad in any way.  Elder gave me my Lovecraft fix without forcing the hour-plus set-up of a cumbersome Arkham, always a plus in my book.  However with Gates of Arkham, the second expansion in the Elder Sign universe, things have changed considerably.

The “Arkham Light” moniker actually fits thanks to Gates.  Investigators have left the museum and taken to the city proper, visiting locations familiar to those of Arkham Horror – The Black Cave, Velma’s Diner, The Unnamable – with gates spawning in the streets.  Elder Signs original adventure cards are replaced by Arkham Encounters when using this expansion because, though the two function closely in style, their approach is much different.  In the museum, players place six adventure cards face up (and any Other World adventures which come into play as well) showing off all tasks needed completing in order to “beat” that adventure before producing a new one, along with what the penalties for failure might be, rewards for victory, and any other effects the card might create.  As a result, players can look over their abilities and their equipment to plan their moves accordingly, focusing on adventures where their resources will lead likeliest to success.  One of the chief complaints about Elder Sign was the ease of the game, yielding a fairly high win percentage in comparison to its Lovecraftian cousins which players felt didn’t fit well thematically leading to a number of house rules in order to up the sense of dread.  Gates addresses this complaint and then some.  Rather than place new adventures face-up, Arkham Encounters enter the board face down with indicators on the back of their difficulty level (with the exception of set-up where three are up, three down).  Like Arkham Horror, Investigators will sometimes have the option to engage that location’s special ability on the back of the card before flipping it over to see what dangers are beneath.  Those abilities range in usefulness, having a give-and-take mechanic as you can rush the timer forward in order to gain an Ally or an Item, trade captured trophies in order to heal Sanity, or any other number of effects.  Then the real trouble begins as the card turns over and you see your tasks – laid out just as they are in the base game – and whether or not you have the chops to complete them.  In one game, I sent an Investigator to The Unnamable in an effort to clear the difficult quest from the board, and this Investigator was loaded with answers to most of the problems I figured I’d see.  Now, had the card been played as it is in the base game face-up, I’d have just let it fester there from beginning to end.  But having no indicator of the pain lying in wait save for a red crossbones prophesizing “hard”, I didn’t know one of my dice would be unavailable, and the penalty for failure was a hit of five health which would immediately kill me.

The outcome went less than well.

Other Worlds enter much the same, face down, a gate token opening on a particular encounter and locking it until the portal is taken care of.  There are only three gates available in the game, and any which spawn after those are out birth a monster which can get rapidly out of hand if players lack the means to put up a fight.  In much the same way I chose to leap through The Unnamable’s threshold, I stepped into the gate unsure of what mad place it might be linked with, and in doing so, found myself on the steps of R’lyeh with little more than a gun and a prayer.

Storytelling is a huge chunk of why gaming appeals to me, something Arkham Horror, Eldritch Horror, and Elder Sign to a lesser extent have in spades.  Elder’s narrative carried some fill-in-the-blank dependencies which is fine as the atmosphere makes for easy stories, but even so, Gates of Arkham greatly enriches the experience with the introduction of the Event deck, a set of cards triggered by an icon from an Arkham Encounter once the card itself is revealed.  Before beginning their tasks, players draw a card from the Event stack these, like all things Lovecraftian, a lift or a detriment, the flavor text offering brief snapshots into the experience giving a more anchored backdrop to the missions you’re about to perform.  Additionally, Investigators may find themselves recruited by the Sheldon Gang or lured by the Silver Twilight’s promise of mysteries, becoming members in these opposite societies in an effort to stave the darkness.  Occasional penalties will present themselves through the Mythos deck for members of either, but the reward outweighs the risk in most cases with the chance to gain extra items as part of an encounter, or avoid certain tasks altogether, making your mission that much easier.  Skills are introduced in Gates as another Investigator reward/perk joining Common Items, Unique Items, Spells, and Allies, these functioning in much the same way an Ally might with more long-lasting results.  Between the Event deck, the two membership opportunities, and these new Skills, the options for shaping your Investigator and, in a more real way, roleplaying them, increase dramatically.  There’s a significantly greater sense of foreboding when the chance for an Investigator to be devoured arises.  Before, it was a rinse/repeat feel where players would just pick a new Investigator with their starting cards but now, that person you’d worked so long to shape and build is gone.  A loss which was once little more than a blip of a wasted turn here has a greater potential to really put players behind making the need for caution all the more necessary.

Some last additions I want to mention quickly before wrapping this review.  The Entrance space of the base game (or four spaces if using Unseen Forces) inside the museum is replaced by the Streets space serving much the same purpose as hub between missions and place to collect yourself.  The Entrance was much more forgiving, allowing players to trade trophies for all manner of things like elder signs, health, items, allies, becoming blessed, the whole nine.  As Investigators became gluttoned by success, the ability to purchase the last materials to seal away evil makes the threat much less… threatening, removing much of the tension from the experience.  With the Streets, players can now only do one of three things: heal 1 heath and sanity, remove a card from the list of available encounters provided there are no monsters, gates, or locked dice, or flip a face-down card.  Purchase options are, again, delegated to the backs of certain encounters, more bonus than “always on”, and the decision to move those portions not only make the game far more difficult, but reinvents the player’s strategic approach as well.  Getting a card turned over to gauge your effectiveness is a must, it an ability I initially thought would be an unnecessary waste of resources but now seen as life-saving.  The clock has a good chance of advancing quickly now as well thanks to a handful of effects which makes the Mythos deck an increased danger.  Four new Ancient Ones are introduced in this expansion – Yibb-Tstll, Ghatanothoa, Atlach-Nacha, and an updated Yog-Sothoth – listed for your convenience from easy to insane, per the rulebook.  I’ve managed the first two, and then Atlach-Nacha came in and ruined my day.  A lot.  There’s a number of new Investigators as well, but I’ll leave you to look up their differences for brevity sake.

Gates of Arkham seems to be the game everyone wanted Elder Sign to be from the outset.  I’ve read some dissenters, but the experience thus far has been remarkable, and though I had yet to tire of the base and Unseen Forces, Gates is a near perfect experience in every way.  Nothing for me to complain about, which is a bit of a miracle in and of itself.  Absolutely recommended without reservation.  The $25 entry fee is practically a steal for what you’re getting.


Television, Uncategorized

This Is Bosch Season One

I’m a sucker for cop shows.  My dad was a cop, so maybe it stems from that, who knows, but it doesn’t matter what the format, fictional or otherwise.  I’ll watch it.  Bosch seemed interesting.  Though I have yet to see Transparent, I’ve heard nothing but good things from the Amazon series which made me assume Bosch would bemuch the same quality.  And it is.  Mostly.  Kinda.  I don’t feel as though my time was wasted in those ten episodes, if that helps.  It just never rises above mediocre.

Bosch is a strange character.

First, not every cop show needs to center around an officer who’s a loner, reckless, insubordinate, plays by their own rules, and is, yet, miraculously, still respected.  Even so, he is uneven to the point of continuity error, at once a breaker of department regulations and a stickler for them, loose with his morals when it fits the moment and not so when he’s calling out a fellow officer.  The series opens with him on trial for shooting a suspect, a plot piece aimed (pun?) to underline Bosch’s affinity for going it alone in spite of his partner.  And though acquitted, Bosch doesn’t learn from the incident, diving head-first into more dangerous situations, alone, without backup an episode later, all moments making Bosch less the lone wolf and more a man incapable of learning from his mistakes.  Perhaps this is the point and we are asked to see the humanity in his shortcomings.  I don’t know.  For me, it just makes him stupid.  Exacerbating this point, the narrative of the first season is more coincidence than good detective work.  Our main antagonist is stumbled upon.  A beat cop “has a gut feeling” and there we are.  Body in the back of a van.  This guy turns out to be a sloppy mastermind, a peculiar savant of serial killers who latches onto Bosch for no real reason other than they were both foster children.  I suppose the crazies need little incentive to be crazy, but Bosch is a series of unconnected events which manage to come tenuously together, of which the killer is only one.  The result is sloppy storytelling with the beats of the action results of chance and coincidence with little room for competent heroes.  In both the characterization of its players and the whys of its narrative, Bosch cannot seem to elevate itself to a point beyond spontaneity.

Perhaps this explains why the bulk of the cast is so one dimensional.  Bosch is fleshed out though, again, suffering from some split personality psychosis manifested by the writing.  His Captain is a walking vessel for hate.  Nothing more.  Like the tire from Rubber.  The Captain’s only purpose is to demand Bosch’s badge.  Again.  And again.

And again.

The Deputy Chief (played by Lance Reddick, forever a cop) is similarly uninteresting, spending the majority of his on screen time either behind a desk or on the other side of an unmarked black SUV’s window.  It’s a little staggering to me the number of government officials in Los Angeles who are chauffeured around in unmarked black SUVs, and who hold meetings in them rolled down window to rolled down window.  Bosch’s partner likes to look good.  Has a tendency to run his mouth at suspects when he doesn’t like them, which is often.  Most of the other officers are background noise.  In the same way I disliked Order of the Phoenix for cramming 900 pages into a feature film, Bosch feels equivalently without meat, all bones and no substance even after nearly ten hours.  I can’t help but feel the show would have benefited greatly from another three episodes, if only to give rest once on the details.

But I said it’s decent.  It is.  There are moments of interest when Bosch’s guard is lowered and he moves out of stereotype, most often when his daughter is around.  Too, the show has these vignettes of only a minute or two with characters grabbing coffee, pulling into a strip mall, sitting down at a meeting, mundane moments all which add a curious spark of life into the sometimes gray.  Brief flashes of living.  They are unspectacular in almost every way and yet not.  For me it’s the authenticity they lend.  A certain glimpse behind the scenes where we’re shown not everything is cops and melodrama.  These are perfect touches and needed distractions.

The acting is good.  No one ever feels out of place or under-performed.  Though Bosch as a character has his shortcomings, Titus Welliver isn’t one of them.  He’s great in the role.  Fully believable.  Jamie Hector is the only person I have trouble with, and I can’t tell if that’s more me than him, as I have difficulty placing him as anyone other than Marlo Stanfield.  He smiles more, but his delivery between the two is quite close.

Recommended if you like cop shows.  Recommended if you’re not put off by circumstance.



This Is Carrion Comfort

Dan Simmons is slowly becoming a sure bet for me when looking for something new to read.  I’d initially picked up the first book in his Science Fiction saga, Hyperion, on a recommendation and instantly tore through the remaining three books in quick succession.  For me, Simmons was a Sci-Fi author.  I later picked up The Terror, his historical reimagining of Sir John Franklin’s search for the Northwest Passage which was manipulated into a more incredible skin.  Many of his novels appear to have some grounding in reality – Drood, for instance, as well as Hyperion who uses both Keats and Frank Lloyd Wright as characters – and though I still hold Hyperion as Simmons’ best, he’s slowly come around to being a horror novelist foremost in my mind, with titles like Summer of Night and its sequel A Winter Haunting, Children of the Night, and now Carrion Comfort.

Carrion is a vampire novel without being a vampire novel.  Rather than being overt with the vampire’s repackaging, Simmons chose instead to be delicate with his parallels making for a stronger end result, these creatures more grounded and approachable while remaining fantastical and, ultimately, frightening.  The pieces are all recognizable – mind control, feeding, longevity, familiars, European aristocracy – without the difficulty of mythological associations (sunlight, garlic, stakes) or other trappings we’ve come to expect.  There are no wolves.  No fangs.  No stakes through the heart.  These vampires are vampires with quotations around them, men and women who are all still human if not higher on the evolutionary ladder than everyone else.  Their powers are more genetic accidents than insidious deals with other dark creatures, a point Simmons uses in favor of making the narrative even more disturbing – it is easy to distance ourselves from certain horrors when the root cause is thing over man, but when the perpetrator is one of us, the gap of retreat narrows considerably.  For instance, one of the main aggressors was once a member of the Third Reich – an Oberst, as one character calls him – which I find best illustrates my above point, highlighting just what we’re capable of doing to one another.  Now, Simmons’ “vampire” has the ability to control others, to step behind their human wheel and drive that body of theirs as they would any vehicle (some one at a time, two at a time, others – those most powerful – dozens), a fact I might argue does, in its own way, allow for some distancing of atrocities caused in one name or another, but the end point still stands.  What’s interesting about this ability is the Thing effect it has (you have seen Carpenter’s film, right?), where no one is ever quite sure who’s in charge of their own faculties.  What good is the storming of Normandy if your commander is suddenly shut out of his own mind and used as a pawn with which to gun down his own squad?  It’s this type of uncertainty which helps raise Carrion’s tension.  In much the same way the characters themselves become trapped, helpless as they’re led puppet-like through motions they can witness and experience yet not control, so too does the reader experience these things, forced to watch as people we’ve become closer to over eight-hundred plus pages are lost inside themselves with us having no way to help.  Simmons does a masterful job of crafting that helplessness and isolation.  As a result, no one is ever truly safe.

On pawns, quickly.  Without giving too much away concerning the plot, the backdrop is set against a global game of chess, one where those with the power (what power? power of voodoo) use those around them as pieces in an effort to checkmate the other.  As such, the book is divided into three parts consisting of opening/middle/closing moves, and as the game progresses, readers begin to better see the behind-the-scenes workings of who this player’s Bishop might be, or who that player’s Queen is.  The seeming randomness of initial events come into better focus as the revelations begin, a needed thing as I found the first one hundred or so pages engaging if not a little confusing.  Maybe confusing isn’t the best word, but it’s definitely a situation where you need to give yourself to the ride knowing everything will slide into place.  The journey, however, is a long one, an argument I would level at most of Simmons’ novels where some fat might be trimmed without being worse for it, though never did I experience a dreaded just wrap it up already.  It says something about the path when I continue to be happy just being a part of it.

Carrion Comfort is a strange, but good, beast.  Part horror, part mystery, part political thriller in its peculiar way.  I’d recommend it, though if you haven’t read Simmons before, I’d point to stronger titles first, namely The Terror and Summer of Night if you want your horror fix.  Still, you’re not going to go wrong with picking up Carrion.  You just won’t get the full effect of Simmons’ strength.  For someone notoriously difficult to please with horror, he’s always done right by me.

Board Game

This Is Marvel Legendary: Guardians Of The Galaxy Expansion

Guardians is the most interesting expansion yet or, at the very least, the most complicated.  There’s a good deal more to keep track of here than in the previous I’ve reviewed/played (Fantastic Four and Paint The Town Red), but the result makes for a much more dynamic and exciting experience.  Though Guardians has my favorite team-up in the five heroes used for an expansion thus far, I would recommend starting off with one of the other two first as a stepping stone given some of the mechanics vary so wildly from those and the base game.  Experienced gamers should have little issue jumping in after a few hands, though I’d still recommend the ramp just the same.

So what’s new?  Artifacts and Shards.  Let’s talk about Artifacts first.  Rather than being a specific type of ability like those introduced in previous expansions like focus or wall-crawl, Artifacts are powerful cards which remain in play after coming out – think of it like attaching a piece of equipment to your character – which grant specific bonuses.  For instance, Rocket Raccoon has an Artifact allowing him to gain a Shard (more on those in a second) every time an Ambush effect or a Master Strike effect is resolved.  Drax has a knife which grants one attack/combat per round.  Things like that.  These effects stack, making your heroes powerhouses with the right combinations.  Now Shards are handled in the form of tokens you place either in a pool or on certain cards, these tokens used as bonuses to grant an extra attack/combat (or, with use of a specific card, recruitment) in a one-time-use capacity.  You acquire them either through cards or attacking enemies with Shards on them, these also granting bad guys a bonus.  Once in their possession, players can hoard Shards in an effort to unleash super attacks, which becomes a necessary strategy when dealing with mega Masterminds like Thanos.

Speaking of Thanos, dude is a monster.  I mean, the Titan of Death should be a monster, though I found him an easier opponent than Galactus mainly due to his Master Strike attack being less limiting.  Thanos’ villain group are the Infinity Shards which are acquired by players after defeating them and used as Artifacts which also grant bonuses of their own.  His attack power is twenty-four, a disgusting number up-front, though for each Infinity Shard in front of the player (and Infinity Shards should not be confused with plain-old Shards), his power is reduced by 2.  I’ve had a tendency to get him down to around eighteen or sixteen, and though it can still be tough to reach those larger numbers, that’s where the token Shards come into play.  Thanos himself can gain Shards, which boosts his attack making him even more difficult, but the same rules apply.  He’s tough, but not mega-tough.  Sound strategy and planning can beat him where, again, Galactus, can just ruin your day with a string of poor draws.

The other Mastermind is the Supreme Intelligence of Kree who, I’ll be honest, I don’t know.  The only Kree I’m even familiar with is Ronan the Accuser thanks to the Guardians film.  This guy is all about buffing himself through Shards, both in his Master Strikes and the Kree villain group he leads who have a number of Ambush effects, all of which grant other Kree characters and the Mastermind Shards.  I didn’t find him, or them, too troublesome.  Both matches were blowouts, come to think of it, though part of that was luck on my part getting some powerful cards right out of the gate.  Gamora – one of the Guardians – has an Artifact which grants two Shards per turn, and allows you to spend five Shards to get ten power, which is the equivalent of a nuclear bomb attack for one card, and from there it’s a swift march to victory.

So heroes.  Starlord, Rocket, Drax, Gamora, and Groot.  Drax I find to be the least useful, which is a little surprising, he a hybrid support/attack character with a balance of around 70/30 on that.  Maybe I just played him incorrectly every time, who knows.  The others are all more balanced toward a specific style, and I’m curious to try them in matches outside of the Guardians Masterminds and Schemes, as I have a feeling they’re a free victory given how much of a wrecking ball they can become.  I’m also curious how well the heroes will work when split, and whether it will be a pain to use Shards and Artifacts when only dealing with one character rather than five.  Perhaps it will just result in a small boost with less item management than putting them all together.

The Guardians expansion is good.  The games have lasted the longest out of all others due to the Schemes and difficulty curve of them, with the exception of some unlucky run-ins with Mysterio.  Turns also take a little longer as a result of needed planning between turns as you juggle Artifacts, Shards, and card combinations.  That’s not a complaint, just something to be mindful of.  I sound like a broken record between these reviews, but Guardians is another must-have for Legendary fans.  I’d still ease in if it’s your first, and especially with younger players, but the result can feel more like a traditional Collectible Card Game at times over a Deckbuilder due to the mechanics, which is a plus in my book.  Scratches that itch just enough.



Board Game

This Marvel Legendary: Paint The Town Red Expansion

What the heck.  I keep waffling on whether or not to spread these Legendary reviews out or put them closer together, and all this inner debate could be solved if I just broke down and wrote it all out.  I’ll cover Guardians of the Galaxy on Friday and be done with it until I get my hands on Dark City (the expansion, not the movie.  Mini-movie review for you: it’s amazing.).

As with Fantastic Four, Paint the Town Red introduces two new abilities to both boon and bane players.  Pretty sure I used those works incorrectly.  Since this is expansion centers around Spider-man, it stands to reason one of the abilities would focus on an iconic piece of his character: the wall crawl.  Traditionally when players purchase a card, that card first goes into their discard pile, only having a chance to enter the rotation once it’s shuffled into their deck proper.  A card with the wall-crawl ability, however, is placed on top of their deck, ready to be used the following turn.  Not only is it perfect thematically, but it can make for some interesting decisions (and big combo potential) when selecting newer cards.  There are times I would be able to buy a more powerful, stand-alone card, without wall-crawl, but I opted instead for the ability in order to buy it, put it on top of my deck, and then play a card allowing me to draw a card and get it in my hand right away.  I’ve run into situations where I fell just short of dealing with a villain in the City with no means of taking them out, only to be able to pull off the above scenario and save myself both a wasted round and opportunity for them to escape.  Though slightly innocuous on the surface, wall-crawl is an ability which has the potential to easily turn a bad situation around if handled properly, and it’s such a small thing leading to more thought-demanding card choices.

The next ability is for the Mastermind, specifically Carnage and his villain group Maximum Carnage: feastFeast KOs the top card of the targeted player’s deck with the possibility of triggering a snowball effect depending on the villain in question or the card removed from the game.  KOing a card (removing it entirely) is typically in the hands of the player, allowing them to remove unwanted cards in favor of getting their stronger ones out more quickly, or at the very least, choose between a number of cards in order to lose the least damaging to them.  With Carnage and his squad, that luxury is removed, and you can run into a quick string of bad luck, scrambling to make up for lost ground while playing the remainder of the game from behind.  It’s a bit of a press-your-luck mechanic when paired with wall-crawl, placing the card you want at the top of your deck, only then to have feast pop up and make you toss it before even getting the chance to use it.

Mysterio is the second Mastermind (leading the Sinister Six, finally), and quite possibly my favorite in the game so far.  I mention theme time and again when speaking about Legendary, but his is nailed so perfectly.  He’s (relatively) weak by other Mastermind standards coming in at just 8 attack, but his power rests not in his might, but his persistence.  What makes Mysterio great is his Master Strike ability.  When the card is drawn, you shuffle it into his deck, and it acts as one of Mysterio’s many illusions.  For other Masterminds, you need to defeat them four times in order to win.  For Mysterio, it can be up to nine if you’re really unlucky: four “real” cards, and five Master Strikes posing as Mysterio.  Nasty, especially when the villain deck gets increasingly low, and you’re in danger of losing by running out of time.

This is already getting long, so rather than focus on the new heroes, I’ll just give them a quick mention:  Spider-woman, Scarlet Spider, Symbiote Spider-man, Black Cat, and Moon Knight.  Spider-man comes in the base set, and I’ve honestly always found him a bit boring to play – he’s a good support character though not terribly interesting, as he revolves around card-draw, and more card draw.  This set at least gives him a few other friends to play off of and thus increases his focus, but he still doesn’t do much for me.  Black Cat too is somewhat of a letdown, feeling more quirky and gimmicky in her style than useful, the burglar tie-in one of the times theme is more cumbersome than useful (purchases and skills revolve around being boosted either by being in the Bank location or through drawn cards, all of which seem to be a bit too random to really make for sound strategic use).  And Moon Knight.  On his own as a Marvel Knights character until I pick up the Dark City expansion.

Like the others I’ve discussed, Paint the Town Red takes a good game to great.  Absolutely recommended.  Not as strong as Fantastic Four in my opinion with the exception of Mysterio, but not a poor purchasing decision by any stretch.  A definite pick-up.

Board Game

This Is Marvel Legendary The Fantastic Four Expansion

I was going to hold off doing any reviews of the expansions for Marvel for a bit, but I’ve been working through the new Schemes/Masterminds introduced in Fantastic Four, and I figure I might as well talk about the add-on while it’s still fresh in my mind.

Two new Masterminds are included, Mole Man and Galactus, both great additions to the base Masterminds.  Their respective Villain groups – Subterranea for Mole, Heralds of Galactus for, appropriately, Galactus – do a perfect job in both the thematic and gameplay departments.

The Subterranea Villains utilize one of the new keywords brought by the FF expansion, burrow, which adds a good strategic layer to their encounters.  There are five spaces Villains can occupy on the game board (or City) – the Bridge, Rooftop, Streets, Bank, and Sewers – Villains escaping once they move beyond the Bridge location, and what makes the Subterranea group interesting with burrow, is the ability allows the Villain to, once defeated, move from their current space on the board to the Streets location, provided the Streets are unoccupied, the idea being they’re fleeing from danger and living to fight another day, as bad guys are want to do.  As players, you’ll want to time attacking Villains with burrow appropriately, striking when there are other Villains in the Streets space, or when that Villain is in the space, rendering the burrow ability useless and unable to trigger.  This makes for some interesting decisions as you play, choosing whether to allow Villains to proceed further into the City than you’d otherwise like in order to block the Streets as a means of moving through the more difficult Villains with a little more ease.  But, you need to be mindful of allowing the board to get too full, especially of Subterranea Villains, as the Mole Man’s attack allows all Subterranea Villains within the City to escape at once, and his combat value increases with each escaped Sub. Villain, a trait which can rapidly spiral out of control if you’re not too careful.  What seems like a weak Mastermind on paper can actually become quite formidable.

I’ve gone against Galactus near a dozen times now and lost every one of my attempts.  I’ve come close, once, but the other goes have all been decisive defeats, which makes sense as Galactus is a world devourer, and someone with that title shouldn’t go down without a fairly decent fight.  His combat value is twenty, a number astronomical from the outset, but a value which is mitigated the more you combo cards of a certain type (Instinct, Strength, Ranged, etc.).  For every type you play from a single class – a distinction made before attacking Galactus – his value decreases by three so, for example, playing four Strength cards will reduce Galactus’ combat by twelve putting him at eight rather than twenty, a much more manageable figure.  In this way, your choices when purchasing cards becomes more weighted to one side at times, not looking necessarily for combos which bounce well off of more another, but possibly building decks all of one type in order to face the Mastermind more efficiently.

What good would new Masterminds be without new heroes to fight them?  As the expansion title suggests, you’ll finally be getting to play as one of Marvel’s most… ahem… legendary teams, the Fantastic Four: Mister Fantastic, Invisible Woman, Human Torch, and Thing.  Joining them as their fifth is the Silver Surfer.  The second of the new keywords is focus used exclusively with these five heroes, an ability granting players an either/or choice in their card play.  For instance, a card valued at 2 Recruit may also have the text “Focus: 2 Recruit –> Draw 1 card”, meaning, you can either use that card as it’s original 2 Recruit or use it to draw a card.  The more costly cards – and therefore more powerful cards – offer more valuable choices, some ratcheting a single card’s combat value up to nine or more, a number which creeps close to Galactus’ often elusive hit box range.  What I like so much about focus again is the same thing I’ve mentioned a handful of times in this expansion: choice.  What the base game of Legendary lacked was variety, and though I’m not wanting to be overwhelmed by decisions right out of the gate, having the ability to look at my hand, realize there’s little I can do with it by traditional means and instead opting to craft some potentially lucky draws into removing a Villain or recruiting a stronger hero, helps make the game much more interesting and accessible.  There’s nothing worse than feeling as though you have little to do while sporting a full hand, and while that trouble still occasionally presents itself, the issue is much less prevalent here, a change I welcome.

I’m not going to discuss the new Schemes.  I like the surprise of discovery in the same way I enjoy going into a movie “blind” and just seeing what comes of the experience.  Maybe you feel the same way.  If not, you can look them up.  Know that I enjoy them, and some, when paired with a certain Mastermind, can be nasty, though a lot of fun.  These Schemes are my favorites yet, for what it’s worth.

Like Paint The Town Red, the Spider-man expansion, Fantastic Four is a must-own if you enjoy Legendary.  It adds so much to the game, inclusions which make an already entertaining game that much better.  I’ll try and get to Paint The Town in the next week or so.  Maybe even Monday.  We’ll see what comes up.