Geeking Out – Toys and Games and Goodies Galore

We have a mixed bag of reviews for you this week, with a selection of board and card games from Asmodee (Splendor, Pandemic: Hot Zone – North America, and Arkham Horror – Revised Edition; plus, Lost Ruins of Arnak will be getting a review to itself in the near future) and some awesome Marvel Legends figures from Hasbro. And, of course, you can win, win, win!

Read on for the chance to win yourself a copy of the brilliant 7 Wonders Architects (which we reviewed HERE) a Marvel Legends Bro Thor! And of course, to find out the winner of our HUGE Core Space: First Born giveaway!

Weekends often start with a quick game against before breakfast, and to fill that slot first up we have the splendid Splendor (RRP £28.99). In this resource management game of tiles and tokens, players collect gems and craft items whilst trying try to earn prestige and the patronage of nobles.

It’s a fast and devious game with multiple strategies for victory – do you try to win through gaining the favour of nobles, or concentrate on mastering the basics of the jeweller’s craft?

This is easily one of the most Euro of all the Euro games I’ve played: a fairly random subject matter with seemingly abstract concepts that’s actually incredibly subtle and fun – and done in 20 minutes.

I’d like to see how the Marvel-themed Infinity Gems version plays out, for comparison, but meanwhile this has leapfrogged to the top of the game-night heap. Or indeed, the breakfast table.

Next this week is Pandemic: Hot Zone – North America (£19.99) Turns out I prefer this to regular Pandemic. It’s really just a condensed version of the game you can play through in half an hour. So even if you’re 2/3 of the way through and have hit that yawning inevitability of losing (but have to keep playing just ‘cos), you don’t feel like you’ve wasted your time. It’s a bit more random, but it’s so cheap and easy to replay that don’t begrudge it :D

If you’re not familiar with lockdown smash-hit Pandemic by now it’s a game of curing rampant disease outbreaks raging across the globe. You travel to cities, curbing epidemics whilst racing to find the cures. It’s tense and thrilling, occasionally frustrating, but as mentioned the speed of the Hot Zone variant offsets some of the negatives of the sheer scale of the original. There’s a number of Hot Zones available, and the key difference is in the skills of the available characters – the Europe game otherwise plays as a mirror-image map of the US. I would say that I marginally prefer North America: it’s fractionally more difficult insofar as the mix of skills on the characters, whilst useful, are not as powerful as in Europe.

Our final game is the Revised Edition of Fantasy Flight’s Arkham Horror LCG (Living Card Game) (RRP £69.99). Arkham Horror has a bit of reputation as being both incredibly challenging and suffering from erratic release patterns (with the promised regular campaign boosters being far from regular).

Whilst the game is absolutely a challenge, and rightly so, the Revised Edition addresses other concerns in two key ways. First of all, the new core set includes everything up to 5 players need to play – a huge improvement on the original, 1-2 player starter set. Secondly, expansions are switching to a single box containing all the scenarios for a cycle (more like Marvel Champions LCG in that regard) and a second single box containing new investigators. This addresses some of the concerns many potential players – myself included – had with buying into the game. Now, you’re ready to go out of the box, and if you want to play a campaign, it’s easy to do so – whether or not you want new investigators.

From the outset, the game feels like you are stepping into a Lovecraft short story: an introductory narrative passage, and then the objectives laid out like an open volume of eldritch lore. As the story advances, through the steady march of doom or as you acquire clues, the pages turn (well, the cards flip) and the mystery unfolds down possible paths. Using your limited supply of resources, you buy cards from your hands – typically material Assets such as Tomes or Equipment, but also skills and events (plus the occasional random, obligatory Madness that must be in every deck). So far, so card game. However, you also have a board game feel to your investigation, as locations are placed in front of you and you move your chosen investigators from place to place.

It’s a system that feels similar in in some ways to Lord of the Rings LCG, but with myriad clues shrouded in mystery, there’s a different sense of urgency. It’s interesting that you can often simply Resign – run away – rather than face the nameless horrors of the Mythos; whilst it’s unlikely, there does come a point where you want to save a favourite character’s neck.

And that brings me to the game’s other real strength: a real sense of character development – which, in a card game, is no mean feat. Yes, there’s some nice customisation in the Marvel Champions LCG, and, as with any LCG, Deckbuilding is a big part of the appeal for some people – but here, you gain experience which gives you access to improved versions of cards you may already have in your deck: the FBI agent might choose to have a better Beat Cop or Flashlight, for example. It’s much more intuitive (there’s the magic word folks!) for the novice but also emphasises the RPG-lite feel of the game. The fact that you find yourself wanting to – and able – to take a character you’ve customised on further quests speaks really highly of the game.

Equally, this is my one real criticism of Arkham Horror. In the core box, you get 3 linked adventures. Whilst you can scale the difficulty, when you compare with the modularity of (say) Marvel Champions core box – 5 villains, multiple adventures for each, and fully interchangeable encounter sets – it’s a bit thin on longevity. Sure, you can swap around which of the 5 adventurers you want to use, but it would be nice to have broader set of stories to explore as part of the joy of the game is solving the mystery. That being said, there are print-and-play scenarios focusing on each of the core characters, and a staggering array of expansions (8 full campaigns, plus numerous standalone stories) so if you’re willing to invest, there’s certainly no shortage of content. On balance, it’s definitely a win from us.

Moving on, we also were lucky enough to get our hands on some Marvel Legends figures also:

Whilst the smallest offspring claimed Rescue and Captain Marvel, the elder spawn (sorry, I’m still in mythos mode) broke into the Happy Hogan/Iron Man Midas Armor double pack.

I’ll hand over to him…

*Disclaimer: this figure set was provided free of charge for review purposes by Hasbro UK (thanks Jas!) but all opinions in this review are my own. Flight stand not included.*

Marvel Legends (available at Smyths, Argos, Amazon and all good stores) have always interested me, especially the MCU stuff. However, mostly due to the price, I have never actually purchased one of these, my only experience having been with my stealing little brother’s Thanos (which is amazing!)

So, now that I finally have the opportunity, let’s break down some great figures.

Marvel Legends Series Happy Hogan

(£53.99 for double-pack, ORDER HERE)

[Click to Enlarge]

VERDICT: First, let’s take a look at Happy. In the looks department, he’s spot on with his slick black suit. The jacket and tie are rubberised, which makes posing easier, and as for the head, my goodness this is amazing. The sculpting and painting screams Happy Hogan!

He only comes with one accessory, that being a small mobile phone, which fits nicely into his hand. I do wish he had a pocket for this, or perhaps had some variety of weapon, as he’s a bit lacklustre on that front. Optimally, he would’ve come with boxing gloves and helmet as the suit jacket is theoretically removable, and they would’ve gone great with Happy.

As to be expected, the articulation on this is excellent, with highlights being the ab crunch and double knees and elbows. Butterfly joints would’ve been nice, but my biggest by issue with the articulation is the lack of a proper ankle rocker joint. I still really like this figure and feel he’s solid, if perhaps a wee bit basic.

Marvel Legends Iron Man Mark 21 ‘Midas’

(£53.99 for double-pack, ORDER HERE)

[Click to Enlarge]

VERDICT: If I was ever going to purchase any Marvel Legends figure, it was going to be an Iron Man suit, so I was pretty excited when I got this, and yes, it’s amazing. This figure screams classic background suit, and the gold plastic appears to be durable – let’s not have a repeat of the old gold plastic syndrome – and the colour is a nice balance of muted and shiny gold. All the sculpting the incredible really capturing the iconic Iron Man look, and the small paint variations it has are utilised well, picking out details such as the arc reactor and eyes.

As for accessories, Mark 21 has a good offering, with alternate opened hands that allow you to pull off the Iron Man landing pose and have 3mm ports that the included, really nice, blast effects plug into. A solid set of accessories, I maybe would’ve liked an open mask head, either with or without a Tony Stark head inside, but I can’t complain too much. An interesting feature that blew me away was the hinged flaps on the back which add a whole new level of accuracy to this and are a welcome inclusion.

The poseability is great with highlights being the ab crunch and double jointed elbows and knees.

I really feel that it needs more up on the head to allow for more flight poses, but the there is enough articulation to pull off some truly iconic poses, and a it looks incredible in a flight stand. Overall a great figure.

The set is great, you get two top notch action figures, and I feel that you really get your money’s worth in this set. £53.99 is actually less than you’d pay for two marvel legends.


So if, after reading all this, you fancy a copy of 7 Wonders (REVIEW HERE) and your very own Marvel Legends Bro Thor, all you need to do is comment below with which of the products we’ve reviewed above you most like the sound of! Easy-peasy. Of course, as always, the social shares are much appreciated!

Next time, we’ll be looking at Lost Ruins of Arnak, an Indiana Jones / Tomb Raider style adventure board game, and it’ll be a Marvel Mutant takeover on the miniature front (with, of course, another great giveaway from our chums Asmodee UK and Hasbro UK).

Finally, the winner of our Core Space giveaway is… George Halbert!

Congratulations! Contact within 30 days to claim your prize!

SAMDAVThe Writer of this piece was: Sam Graven
Article Archive: Geeking Out
You can follow Sam on Twitter and Instagram

5 Comments on Geeking Out – Toys and Games and Goodies Galore

  1. Arkham Horror would be my choice as I’m a big Lovecraft fan but I’m intrigued by Pandemic Hot Zones. I love the original Pandemic and Legacy but a quicker game would ve great.

  2. Lindsay Urquhart // February 16, 2022 at 8:19 pm // Reply

    I like the sound of Arkham Horror but feel might be too tricky for a novice. Maybe Pandemic a safer bet, time- wise too, especially with small child running around!

  3. Pandemic has always been a game that I’ve liked the look and sound but have never actually brought or played!

    I have Marvel Splendor – great game, you’d love it! :)

  4. Would kind of love Happy Hogan. Always overlooked

  5. Would kind of love Happy Hogan. Always overlooked

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