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Subject: Brama, Jian, and Reeve vs. Crooked Mask rss

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David Allen
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Played Aeon's End last night, using three breach mages against the nemesis "Crooked Mask." My mages were Brama, Reeve, and Jian. Brama has the very important healing power, Reeve has a powerful anti-minion power, and Jian's special power allows you to cast any mage's spell twice and only discard it once (basically a free spell). I used a randomized supply pile that ended up being kind of expensive, but which included the all-important Blasting Staff relic, which I am starting to feel is an essential tool.

I found myself really relying on my characters' special abilities, and using my aether to charge them up whenever possible. I don't know that doing so is the best strategy in general, but I definitely felt more confident during the game knowing I had a heal and a "minion nuke" in my back pocket, so to speak.

We (meaning me playing as three characters) narrowly beat Crooked Mask... All three mages were down to 3 life, and Gravehold was down to 5 (from 20). To be honest, I think we only won because I misinterpreted when and how Crooked Mask's "corruption" cards are meant to be played, allowing mages to discard them more than they should have been able to if I had played it correctly.

Ehh...Blame it on the 11 pm start time and the big bottle of farmhouse ale I was fortifying myself with.

In case you are unaware, Crooked Mask's special "Unleash" ability makes a player take a card from a special, nemesis-specific "Corruption" deck into their hand or draw deck. The cards usually have both a detrimental effect AND a positive effect ("Take 2 damage but add a spell from the supply pile into your hand for free" etc.). I think thematically the idea is that the mages are trading extra power for a hellish taint from this particular nemesis.

This is my third full playthrough of this game, and for the most part I quite like it. It may seem a little dry, mostly because your achievements and setbacks are displayed on two little cardboard wheel thingies. And, like Sentinels of the Multiverse (a game to which it is frequently favorably compared), it may also seem a bit repetitive. However, it is actually pretty daunting trying to figure out how to spend your renewable yet somewhat meager resources, and the tension does get pretty high near the end game (Do I work toward healing myself or the city, or do I risk it all to get a big, game-ending strike against the enemy?) I would guess that actually playing the game with more people would be pretty exciting. Sigh... Someday.

I don't know that card-based games are going to be my thing--I own SOTM with two expansions, and while I am not so dismissive of it as some, I do agree with many people that the primary issue with that game is that the only real choices you get to make are making sure you have a good set of heroes to fight with from the beginning, seeing as the hero decks are immutable. I own Android: Netrunner but have yet to actually play it, and people tell me it's very immersive. I've put the Arkham Horror LCG on my wish list but thanks to the recent spate of overwhelmingly positive reviews, especially from Shut Up and Sit Down, supplies are low and it may be a while before more copies are available at a reasonable price. Plus I already own Eldritch Horror and I feel bound by my conscience to get a few more plays of that under my belt before I trade it in for the newer model.

Aeon's End has very solid gameplay mechanics but one might wish for some way to make it a little more narratively exciting, especially because the flavor text offers some very compelling and tantalizing glimpses of the game's story. In the game you are required to defend the city of Gravehold, the last redoubt of humanity, which is solely represented by a little hitpoints-dial thingie. I think it would have been great if the City had its own deck of damage cards or defense cards, or some other device to make it seem like a real place you are defending, akin to the town in Samurai Spirit. Or it may be that a failure of imagination on my part requires me to have a tangible, visible battlefield or arena in front of me to feel fully immersed in the game, as opposed to simple stacks of cards. In any event, I plan to keep on plugging away, and I have ordered both available expansions. I look forward to playing the expansions as well as seeing how the fan community (and the designer, who seems to be very responsive) extends the game with custom scenarios, etc.
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David Allen
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I realized I was being a bit disingenuous when I wrote this, as I say at the end that I have ordered the two expansions. Reeve is actually included in "The Depths" expansion, which I received the day I played this session, and my timeline got a bit confused. So, to be honest, I now have both "The Depths" and "The Nameless" expansions, but I have at this point only incorporated one new mage from them into my actual gameplay.
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