Monthly Archives: January 2013

It’s taxes time! Orzhov deckbrew

I’m pretty sure that Extort should be good. It looks good, like all good water-wings. And like all good water-wings, they won’t save you forever, so you better make sure you have a plan for getting out of the water when things are starting to get desperate.

I’m a heartless bastard at times, so I decided to focus on this particular pairing:

AVR Exquisite Blood GTC Vizkopa Guildmage

With that in mind, it’s time to make a decklist!

Main:

4 Exquisite Blood
4 Vizkopa Guildmage
4 Blind Obedience
4 Crypt Ghast
2 Treasury Thrull
2 Alms Beast
4 Syndic of Tithes
4 Gift of Orzhova
4 Orzhov Charm
4 Sign in Blood
10 Swamp
10 Plains
4 Orzhov Guildgate

Sideboard:

4 One Thousand Lashes
3 Immortal Servitude
4 High Priest of Penance
4 Oblivion Ring

The Goal:

It’s deceptively simple: Survive long enough to get Exquisite Blood and Vizkopa Guildmage in play together. Drop your 1WB into the Guildmage’s second ability, then trigger a lifegain.

The lifegain options are essentially:

  • Extort any spell
  • Sign in Blood on your opponent
  • Attack with lifelink

If your opponent sideboards, then it’s possible they have some emergency Enchantment-destruction lurking around, in which case it’s time to go full-on Extort. Side in the High Priests to give them serious pause for thought about attacking. Get O-Rings and One Thousand Lashes in. Throw out your big beasts and the Gift of Orzhova. Give them so many Enchantments to waste Naturalizes on that sooner or later they run out, all while you Extort to death.

That’s the logic, anyway. Now I need to test this puppy out!

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Star Wars: Edge of the Empire Beginner Game Review

We’ve had this in the house for a while, but Christmas can get in the way of getting enough people together to roleplay. Finally, thanks to our FLGS opening a regular gaming club, we found both time and players.

Box

The game comes packaged in a box with everything you will need to play: A rulebook; a pre-written adventure; maps for that adventure’s key locations; four pre-generated character folios; and the dice.

Character folios? Not sheets? Yes indeed. You see, the Edge of the Empire Beginner Game is – as stated on the box – an introduction to roleplaying, not an introduction for roleplayers to one particular game. This box is singlehandedly doing what roleplaying has neglected for well over a decade: attracting new players to the whole hobby.

The character folios then, aren’t just a sheet with a myriad of confusing stats: They contain progressing versions of the same character, helping new players learn about Experience Points and character advancement. They contain a note on each double-page spread explaining how the dice work. There is a sidebar outlining your key skills, and on later spreads how advancement in different directions will shape your character. In short, there’s everything you need to adopt a pre-generated character and make them entirely your own.

game-layout

These characters are so carefully created, and so thoroughly ideal a match for the beginning adventure, that it’s next to impossible to have a bad time. The group has a powerfully strong motive to work together, and an equally strong reason to get the heck offworld. The adventure is very gently railroaded but manages to feel as though you have multiple choices: our group managed to evade and persuade rather than go toe-to-toe in combat in a couple of situations. The characters also don’t overlap one-another’s niches, and every one has a part to play in the included adventure: Pash seriously came into his own when it came to flying a ship; Vex was invaluable for both slicing and obtaining items we might have otherwise had to pay for; Oskara has some seriously mad carbine skills; and Lowhhrick is the close-combat specialist.

Fantasy Flight’s support is so good, though, that there are an additional two character folios available to download from their website: Sasha the Explorer; and Mathus the Technician. We had Sasha in play in our game, and she was superb at stealth and perception, frequently acting as our spotter. There’s also a second adventure, following on from the events in the Beginner Game. All this? Free.

They’ve released a dice roller app so that you don’t have to carry bags of dice to every game, and your players don’t have to start buying these very specific dice just to join in. It’s available for iOS and Android, and covers dice for both Edge of the Empire and the X-Wing Miniatures Game. Either version is only about $5 / £3.20.

It’s a great game, but more importantly it’s an ideal introduction to roleplaying. Looking for a way to bring your children into the hobby? Buy this. Looking for your first roleplaying game to try between yourself and a few friends? Buy this. Looking for an ideal game to help new members of your local games club learn to roleplay? Buy this. Star Wars fan who’s never tried roleplaying before? Buy this.

At about $30 / £25, it’s the ideal start to a lifetime’s enjoyment of one of the most enjoyable hobbies available. It isn’t a full copy of Edge of the Empire, and does exactly what it says on the box.

Verdict: 10/10. Highly Recommended.

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Epic Orzhov battle at Gatecrash pre-release

Know that feeling when you crack open your boosters in a Sealed event and get really awesome cards?

No, me either. But I got my Treasury Thrull, and had to make do.

GTC Treasury Thrull

Isn’t he lovely? 6cmc for a 4/4. Better hope I can last until turn 6 against Gruul or Boros decks, eh?

Out of my guild pack, I got absolutely nil cards of any serious use in the format: a single Orzhov Guildgate; one Boros Guildgate; no guildmages; one Boros Charm.

Boros Charm? Wasn’t that one of the cards I would guarantee to splash red for? You’re damn right it is, and I did. Because not only did I get a Boros Charm, I got a foil Assemble the Legion, and two Court Street Denizens.

GTC Assemble the Legion GTC Court Street Denizen

Suddenly what I was fielding wasn’t an Orzhov deck. It was Boros with a black splash to try and maintain my life total long enough for these two to begin working together. I didn’t get anywhere near enough cards with Extort on them for that to be a viable tactic (four, for those who are curious: four cards out of six boosters with Extort on them). I didn’t get enough critters with Battalion to rely on that either.

Did I mention that other than the two guildgates and a Prophetic Prism (everyone got one of those in their guild booster), I got no mana-fixing whatsoever? Mmm. This was going really well!

Round 1:

My first round was against a pure Dimir deck. My life totals were all over the place, as was to be expected, but his? Nope. For the most part I just wasn’t able to form a cohesive threat. I won the first game, but lost the next two. My opponent was a great guy, and we had a lot of fun chatting about the cards we’d pulled.

Round 2:

The Round from Hell. The app matched me up against the only other Orzhov player in the tournament, and he had also splashed red. He had also pulled remarkably awful cards. In fact we had a lot of sympathy for each other. At times our decks and plays were identical. The first game was over quickly as I struggled to form any kind of defence whatsoever. But the second?

The second was the most epic battle I have ever played in. We laughed. We cried. My opponent begged me to kill him so that we could have lunch. I suggested if he were that hungry he could concede, but neither of us were taking that option.

Rounds were 45 minutes each. We’d spent 10 on our first game. The second used the remainder of our round, then spilled over into our 15-minute comfort break. Our Judge gave us those 15 minutes to keep going if we wanted, and with grim determination we forged ahead.

Life Totals

This is what an hour of Orzhov on Orzhov violence looks like. Save yourselves: don’t participate in this kind of nonsense.

The round ended in a draw.

Round 3:

Round the Third brought me up against another pure Dimir deck. This was all over fairly quickly – she beat me hands down in the first game, but I won the next two. Finally, an outright win!

Round 4:

My fourth round was against the deck which went on to win the tournament: Boros with Gruul splashed. Again my opponent was absolutely lovely to play against, but even though I squeaked him down to 4 life in the first game, he came in and demolished my fairly comfortable-looking 12 in a single attack. In the second game, I didn’t even chip the paintwork.

Overall:

I had an awesome time. The people were friendly, the atmosphere was fun, and there wasn’t a sore loser to be found. I came 5th out of 16 players, which was fairly poor, but entirely my own fault: I made a couple of sloppy plays in Round 1 and again in Round 4. There were times I should have taken a Mulligan and didn’t, and there were times when I got muddled over my mana and found myself unable to cast the planned second spell of my turn because I’d tapped the wrong colour combinations. I refused to ask for take-backs, because I think unless you endure the consequences of your actions you just don’t learn from them so well.

Mr. Troo came second, and his prize was 8 booster packs. Naturally when we got home and opened them we found:

  • Two Lazav, Dimir Mastermind – one foil, one non
  • Deathpact Angel
  • Vizkopa Guildmage
  • Immortal Servitude

We also seem to have accumulated a playset of Consuming Aberrations, so I think that building a Dimir deck is highly likely in my very near future…

DRWTFENVNJAZ

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Painting Witchfate Tor, Part 2

All right, let’s finish this beast! Part 1 covered painting the majority of the stonework; now we’re going to carry on with what’s left.

Step Four:

I got bored at this point and decided to make a base to sit the tower on. This took a little planning. I wanted a base that was large enough to stand a few minis on, but not so massive that it would be a problem to store and transport. Ultimately I cut a sheet of MDF to approximately 45x25mm and glued 25mm styrofoam to it.

The next stage was to place the model’s base in the centre and draw around it, then carve out about 3mm of depth for the base to nestle snugly into the styrofoam. This makes the setting look a little more natural, and prevents the model sliding around if a stray arm knocks it during play.

Once I was happy with the outline, I took a craft knife to the edges and began carving. This was a somewhat haphazard process, as I wanted the rock to seem authentic. At some stages I glued additional pieces of styrofoam to the MDF to create staggered layers.

To protect it from aerosol propellants and make it tough enough for play, I liberally smothered it in readymixed all-purpose filler and gave that a day to set.

Then onto the Chaos Black primer! The edges of the base were drybrushed slate to match the model, and the top was drybrushed with a variety of browns and greens to create a mud and grass effect. I wanted the ground to become increasingly dead as it neared the Tor, and finished the area nearest the outline with dead grass sprinkles and a nice dead tree. After that all it needed was layer after layer of Woodland Scenics Realistic Water with a splash of red to make it look like rivers of blood were gushing out of the cursed building! D’aww!

To make the dead tree, I shoved a toothpick in at the angle I wanted, snipped the top off to remove the point, and glued it into place. Then I added a clump of tan-coloured lichen, glueing it to the toothpick. Easy peasy. A few blobs of Scorched Brown to the toothpick gave it more of a bark colour.

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Step Five:

I then got it into my head that what I really needed in here was a flickering firelight. The most arduous part was drilling through the centre of the comet in the base of the Tor – the plastic was at its thickest there. And not being remotely capable at soldering I decided to cheat and picked up a box of dirt cheap LED tealights. Disassembling one carefully, I glued the LED into the hole I’d drilled (carefully pre-measuring to make sure it was going to be a snug fit), then cut the “flame” housing and glued that in place over the LED to soften the light from it.

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Step Six:

The top is painted using largely identical techniques to the base: Slate for most of the brickwork, grey for the accents, then washes of colour for the major flagstones and drybrushing lighter versions of the top. Note that the centrepiece is missing from this photo so that you can see how slack I get when I know something’s going to get covered.

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Witchfate Tor, Completed:

As you can see, the levels really don’t fit together very well. I haven’t forced them – they can be a little more snug than this, but I took it gently for the photos. I’m considering taking out the floors of each storey and pinning the tower together. This’ll make it less portable, but it’ll be sturdier and look better.

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Let me know what you think!

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Painting Witchfate Tor, Part 1

Witchfate Tor is a bugger of a model. Let me just be totally up-front about that. It’s badly moulded, and if you aren’t careful you’re going to cut your hands to pieces trying to get it into shape. It also falls apart pretty easily if, for example, your cat decides to shove it off a shelf. But I have no fear, and I have painted the beast!

Step 1:

I primed each part with Chaos Black. I prefer priming before assembly with some pieces, and as Witchfate Tor is round,  it worked better for me to do so this time.

Deciding on a colour scheme of slate and grey stones, I went crazy with the drybrush to start, laying down blocks of colour as a guide: Fenris Grey Foundation for the slate areas; Adeptus Battlegrey Foundation. You’ll already notice that I have pots of paint lurking around from before last year’s new range came out, but don’t worry: DakkaDakka’s Paint Compatibility Chart is here to help!

Witchfate Tor WIP 2

Witchfate Tor WIP 1

Step Two:

More drybrushing in the following order:

  • Slate stones: Shadow Grey; and Space Wolves Grey.
  • Grey stones: Codex Grey; and Skull White.
  • Door arches, skulls, and other stonework and carvings: A 70/30 mix of Scorched Brown and Chaos Black; Foundation Dheneb Stone; Vallejo Bonewhite.
  • Wood areas: Scorched Brown and Vermin Brown.
  • Roof tiles: 70/30 Scorched Brown and Chaos Black wash, arbitrarily painted over with Red Gore to avoid it looking too even.

Witchfate Tor Level 1

Witchfate Tor Detail

Step Three:

Time to focus on the flagstones in the base, just in case I ever want to use the base as a ruin. The entire base was painted the same slate as the majority of the brickwork, then overpainted with other colours. First a thin wash, then stippling on a thicker layer, before stippling the paint on neat (but dry). After that I made a 50/50 mix of each colour with Vallejo Bonewhite and stippled that over the lighter areas, then drybrushed the outer edges of each flagstone with it. Finally a drybrush around the edges with Skull White. All dark metallic areas are Tin Bitz, and the lighter ones are Burnished Gold, and skulls are just a drybrush of Vallejo Bonewhite.

Witchfate Tor Base 1

Witchfate Tor Base 2

The Completed Tower:

The floors are a tight fit, and it can feel heavy-handed forcing them to sit right, but I’m very pleased with the paint job so far.

Witchfate Tor Detail

Coming in part 2:

  • The top floor.
  • A hand-carved base.
  • Internal lighting.

See you soon!

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Assemble the Legion!

It’s that time: Wizards have released the full image spoiler for Gatecrash, and now we have five days to think before the pre-release.

Obviously we can’t plan a deck. It’s sealed, and we only know for sure what one of our 90 potential cards will be. But I’m going Orzhov, and will absolutely splash if I pull a bomb that’s worth it, so let’s look at what’ll make me think twice.

Blue:

GTC Psychic Strike GTC Spell Rupture GTC Aetherize

I will splash blue in a heartbeat for any of these. I think counterspells are going to be my only real defence against bombs, and Aetherize will dispose of tokens and pesky +1/+1 counters in a flash. Psychic Strike has a handy side-effect, but I won’t be able to capitalise on it, because I’m not playing Dimir. Spell Rupture is far tastier, as I’m guaranteed to have a 4/4 body in the deck from the Treasury Thrull.

Red:

GTC Boros Charm GCT Skullcrack GTC Martial Glory

If I don’t pull blues worth splashing for and any of these come up, I’ll certainly think about adding red to the mix instead. Boros Charm is a board-saver for all those precious lifelinking, extorting creatures. Skullcrack is a cheap direct damage that can also give a nasty surprise to opposing Orzhov players, and Martial Glory could be the coup de grâce to help a blocked creature survive and add more power to one which broke through (or has lifelink).

And for the Orzhov?

GTC Cartel Aristocrat GTC Alms Beast GTC Vizkopa Guildmage

I’m going to be pleased as punch to pull any of these! The Cartel Aristocrat is a nice enough bear, and can help shed harmful auras. I’m reluctant about the Alms Beast, but it *is* going to kill much of what it blocks, and coupling it with either Skullcrack or the Vizkopa Guildmage should counteract its offputting ability. If I can field both the Alms Beast and the Vizkopa Guildmage, then I don’t mind donating lifelink to something I’m about to kill if I can farm 6 life off doing so.

GTC Beckon Apparition GTC Shadow Alley Denizen GTC Contaminated Ground

I love all three, and they’re cheap commons. Just look at them! Beckon Apparition gives a 1/1 flying Spirit token and an exile, for W/B. Shadow Alley Denizen is 1/1 body and potentially unblockable creatures, for B. Contaminated Ground gives you a way to slow your opponent down and make them pay if they need the speed for 1B. These are all very sexy cards. I will include these without a second thought.

GTC Executioner's Swing GTC Death's Approach GTC Balustrade Spy

Executioner’s Swing is Gatecrash’s 2CMC single-target removal. As with all black removals at this cost, it has a limitation. Well, sadly it actually has two, and it’s no guaranteed removal. But it’s a start, and it’s seriously worth including: we need all the removal we can get. Death’s Approach is fantastic, and will force your opponent to play around it if you slap it on the things they’re desperate to keep. It can defang Battalion effects, reduce Simic bonuses. Lovely! And the Balustrade Spy is a handy 2/3 flier with a handy grind built in; I might go for him if I also splash blue for Psychic Strike, but otherwise I may well pass.

And finally…

GTC Orzhov Charm GTC Glaring Spotlight GTC Thespian's Stage

I don’t know what to make of the Orzhov Charm. Being able to rescue a creature and all my auras could be useful. Throwing two mana to retrieve a 1CMC creature to the battlefield seems reasonable, but not exciting. Vitally, though, it’s another removal option, and it costs me the life that I should be making back with Extort and Lifelink… So it’s definitely a keeper, but I think I’ll have to see it in play before I’m completely sold.

Glaring Spotlight, of course, is just amazing. Could even be a game-winner. There are quite a few pesky hexproof creatures in Gatecrash, and being able to bypass that will be extremely handy. More handy, of course, is giving your whole army hexproof and making them unblockable for the turn. Could be the key to get past a wall of Soldiers or FrogCrocodileMutants.

Honourable mention goes to Thespian’s Stage. It could, at the very least, be a very useful mana fixer. But I think it’ll be far sexier beyond Sealed and into any Constructed format you go to. Copying a Cavern of Souls? Or a Gavony Township? Maybe a Vault of the Archangel? All very tasty indeed.

Are there any cards you’ll pick without question this weekend?

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DZC Battle Report: UCM vs PHR

Well, you’ve had my treatise on how brilliant Dropzone Commander is, and now at last here is the video from Sunday’s game.

The chaps played a 1,000 point game, with five focus points, and kill points as a tie-breaker should one be needed.

I can’t wait to get hold of my Shaltari army!

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DropZone Commander: Wargaming without a second mortgage.

There’s a new kid on the wargames block, and he’s kicking over the chairs and scribbling his name on the walls: DropZone Commander. Well, it might not be quite like that, but what it is doing is giving us a great new game for which you can buy all you will ever need for £265.

£265 for dropships, tanks, troops, a commander, a deck of command cards, custom-cut KR-Multicase foam trays, and an aluminium carry case.

Don’t adjust your eyes. You didn’t misread that. Of course, someone’s going to have to pop £15 on the rulebook, too, but that’s it.

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The minis are incredible. At 10mm scale you might worry that things are going to get clunky, but Dave Lewis of Hawk Wargames has done an amazing job. Vehicles were sculpted digitally, and are so detailed that tanks have tiny moveable parts. Troops were done the old-fashioned way – by hand – and yet these absolutely miniscule figures are superb (and too small for my 50mm macro lens to get a fix on).

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It’s called DropZone Commander with good reason: The scale may be 10mm, but your battlefield is, for medium-sized games, 48X48mm. That’s only two feet shorter than your average 40K table, and your troops are not going to run their little legs off crossing all that on their own. Even wheeled / tracked vehicles are sitting out in the open for too long. No, you’re going to need to airlift your army into position with Dropships, or they aren’t going to make it.

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We’ve used books for buildings in this game: Dropships in flight are measured as being 6″ from the table surface, so it’s important to know how tall your structures are. But DZC tactics can also rely heavily on destroying buildings, so books gave us the ability to remove layers and leave the foundations in place. Hawk Wargames has – for free, mind you – gorgeous buildings that you can download from their website and print onto stiff card.

Yes, again! I’m not having a seizure, I’m not making this up! A games company which gives you free support from its website, and even encourages fan-made extras! Stick with me on this one.

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The armies from this particular game were the United Colonies of Mankind (UCM), and PostHuman Republic (PHR). There are currently four armies in total: The UCM are the remains of the once-great Human empire; the PHR split off and are now cyborgs; the Scourge are body-thieving parasites; and the Shaltari are ancient and advanced aliens. Flavour-wise the UCM are sorta kinda Imperial Guard-ish, the PHR are a bit Tau-ish, the Scourge are Tyranid-like, and the Shaltari are vaguely Eldar. Play-styles, though, are entirely different.

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The obligatory size comparison shows a Tactical Marine between a PHR Janus Scout Walker, the smallest Walker the PHR have, and a PHR Neptune Medium Dropship.

I like it. I like it so much that I’m picking up a Premium Shaltari Mega Army in the next few weeks. In fact, I’ve been terribly cheeky and asked Mr. Troo if I can have it for my birthday. So you can expect to see a lot more of DZC on this blog over the coming months (or years).

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40k: Grey Knights vs Imperial Guard vs Eldar

Morning all,

I was supposed to be playing a game of Warhammer 40K this weekend, but I wasn’t feeling too well, so I ended up spectating.

The chaps went for a 1,000pt three-way game with rules of Mike’s devising, the gist of which are:

  • One central objective worth 5 victory points
  • One objective in each player’s deployment zone worth 3 points if you hold your own, or 4 points each if you capture one which wasn’t yours to begin with.
  • Kill points for wiping out a unit, or when a unit dies but you killed the majority of it. If two players draw, the last player to kill a model in that unit scoops the point.
  • No First Blood (because the player going third is at an unfair disadvantage).
  • No Warlord Powers.

 The chaps have already uploaded the battle report, so without further ado, here it is.

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The Secret World

I’ve been known to MMO. Once or twice. *cough*. Mostly Lord of the Rings Online, with a small side-order of World of Warcraft when I got tired of grinding level 50 pigs. Yep, you guessed right: WoW didn’t last long at all, because I got tired of grinding level 20 pigs.

So when Mr. Troo found The Secret World on special offer in December we did consider whether we’d just tire of it when we had to grind pigs of any level whatsoever. But we bit the bullet and gave it a try. It had, after all, just gone Free to Play.

You may know this already, but The Secret World is a very Call of Cthulhu-esque game. There was a great deal of promise in the online buzz about how little grind there is.

Set in the modern world in which secret societies have existed for centuries but are now scrabbling to save life as we know it, TSW borrows heavily from Lovecraftian Mythos and tabletop roleplaying games.

Your character has whichever abilities you want to learn.

That’s right. No classes, no predetermined cookie-cutter list of the skills and abilities you can buy from. You can buy whatever you have the XP for in the Ability Wheel.

You earn Ability Points through XP. The only limitation on spending them is that you cannot bypass cheaper skills to reach the more expensive ones in the same tree, and you must have maxed both inner trees of an Ability Type before you can progress onto the outer ring for that Ability. Don’t worry, though: you earn AP’s like they’re going out of fashion.

You also earn Skill Points, which you can place as and where you choose. Skills boost your abilities, and determine what level of talismans or weapons you are able to wear / wield. Devoting all your skill points to your weaponry will leave you stranded when it comes to finding awesome talismans (which can boost your health, traits, and abilities, so are vital to keeping you alive – especially if you solo).

Helping you decide what Abilities you want to purchase is a massive in-game table which allows you to search, filter, and explore every ability the game has to offer.

Also you can stand around looking cool with your shoulders on fire, which clearly everyone wants.

I like it a lot so far. There was, alas, serious – yes – grind in December, because TSW ran an event to coincide with the Mayan End of the World. What this meant was that Mayan zombies would spawn under your feet, under the feet of mobs you were killing, under the feet of shopkeepers you were selling rubbish to, and under the feet of the other Mayan zombies you’d just survived. This turned any combat anywhere into a hard slog for, while the Mayans were usually passive, if they spawned while you were in combat they’d pile right in.

But now, thankfully, they Mayans are gone. The world didn’t end (at least, not the way they thought), and my Illuminati friend and I may continue on with our possibly-doomed attempts to save life as we know it.

Overall: 8/10. Would certainly recommend (except to small children, because when I say Cthulhu-esque I really mean it).

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